ATACMS is critical for Ukrainian Army, but the US wants to replenish its own stockpile first
Washington has no objections to providing Ukraine with long-range and precision-guided ATACMS missiles. However, the US Army needs more missiles in stock to transfer them without jeopardising its own defence capabilities.
By the end of this year, Ukraine is to receive for the first time the GLSDB precision long-range bombs, which will increase the range of the HIMARS and M270 missile systems in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine to 150 km.
Despite this, the transfer of other long-range ATACMS missiles, which have twice the range of GLSDBs (300 km), is still relevant. At the same time, according to Laura Cooper, Deputy Pentagon Advisor for Ukraine, Russia and Eurasia, the United States is currently unable to find “free” ATACMS for the Armed Forces, The War Zone reports.
The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) is a tactical ballistic missile manufactured. It has a range of up to 300 km. The ATACMS can be fired from the tracked M270 MLRS, and the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
First of all, it is worth noting that the transfer of ATACMS missiles is not really about fears of escalation or crossing the so-called “red lines”, but about the “practical aspects of availability” of the weapon, as Cooper explained it.
In simple terms, before sending Ukraine a certain amount of weapons, the Pentagon takes into account the amount of its own stockpile to understand what it can send to Ukraine without compromising its security.
And the situation with ATACMS today is that over the past 20 years, about 4,000 missiles have been manufactured, some of which were sold by an ally, and about 600 missiles were used by the US military directly during combat operations. Some more were fired during exercises and tests.
At the same time, the United States allegedly views ATACMS missiles as an essential weapon that will be needed in a conflict with an equal opponent, and that it is strategically crucial for maintaining the country’s defence capability, so “extra” missiles can only appear when the United States receives in sufficient quantities the successor to ATACMS, the long-range PrSM missile.
However, despite such statements, the US continues to pressure the Biden administration to eventually “unblock” the transfer of ATACMS missiles. For example, a bipartisan resolution calling for the transfer of these missiles to Ukraine was recently adopted.