U.S. Close To Providing Ukraine With Long-Range Cluster Missiles

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The Biden administration is close to deciding it will provide Ukraine with a version of ATACMS long-range missiles armed with cluster bomblets rather than a single warhead, according to several people familiar with the ongoing deliberations.

Interagency discussions on whether to approve the weapons moved in recent days from the deputies committee, a meeting of representatives of the No. 2 officials in national security agencies, to the principals committee, involving the heads of each agency, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity about the sensitive issue. The process culminates with a decision by President Biden.

The cluster-armed ATACMS, with a range of between 45 to 190 miles, depending on the version chosen, could allow Ukraine to strike command posts, ammunition stores and logistics routes far behind Russian front lines and dug-in defenses. Ukraine, with backing from a number of U.S. lawmakers, has been asking since last year for ATACMS, which stands for Army Tactical Missile System.

Biden moved during the summer from a firm and long-standing “no” to saying the issue was “still in play.” Although the administration backed away from initial concerns that Kyiv would use the long-range weapons to strike inside Russian territory, the Pentagon still worried that drawing down enough ATACMS from relatively small military stockpiles to make a difference on the Ukraine battlefield would undercut the readiness of U.S. forces for other possible conflicts.

Ukraine has requested hundreds of the missiles.

But the cluster-armed version of ATACMS are more plentiful than those topped with a single – or “unitary” – warhead and are no longer considered a front-line U.S. weapon. From an estimated original production of 2,500, some from the early 1990s, an unknown number were later refitted with unitary warheads, according to a fiscal year 2018 Defense Department publication. But many of the cluster variant remain in stockpiles. Consideration of the cluster warhead ATACMS was first reported by Reuters.

Before Biden’s White House meeting Thursday afternoon with visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Biden was “constantly speaking” to the U.S. military, allies and Ukraine “about what is needed on the battlefield at any given phase of the war and then what the United States can provide, while also insuring that we are able to provide for our own deterrence and defense needs.”

“As he’s weighed all that up, to date, he has determined that he would not provide ATACMS, but he has also not taken it off the table in the future,” Sullivan said.

The Pentagon has declined to provide the number of unitary warhead ATACMS in the U.S. arsenal. The ground-launched missiles are to be phased out, beginning later this year, by a newer long-range system. Lockheed Martin is under contract to produce 500 ATACMS a year, all designated for overseas sales.

Coinciding with the Zelensky meeting, the administration announced on Thursday an additional $325 million in weapons drawn from Defense Department stocks for Ukraine, including “additional air defense munitions to help strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses against aerial assaults from Russia now and in the coming winter, when Russia is likely to renew its attacks against Ukrainian critical infrastructure,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The weapons package “also contains artillery ammunition and anti-armor capabilities, as well as cluster munitions, which will further enhance Ukraine’s capacity to continue its counteroffensive against Russia’s forces,” the statement said.

The administration said in July that it would begin sending 155 millimeter cluster artillery ammunition to resupply Ukraine until a dwindling supply of non-cluster shells could be replenished. The artillery has a maximum range of roughly 15 to 20 miles.

That announcement brought immediate criticism from human rights groups and some governments. Cluster munitions, outlawed in more than 120 countries, explode in the air over a target, releasing up to hundreds of smaller bomblets across a wide area. Critics of the weapon note that some of the submunitions fail to explode, putting civilians at risk often years after a conflict has ended.

The Pentagon said at the time that the cluster artillery shells being sent to Ukraine had “dud,” or failure, rates no higher than 2.35 percent, compared to 6 percent or higher in earlier tests. Since Ukrainian forces started using the artillery shells this summer, U.S. officials have hailed that decision as a success, saying the munitions have been an effective tool in a major counteroffensive to dislodge occupying Russian troops.

The original Defense Department decision to convert some of the long-range cluster ATACMS to unitary warheads was intended to meet a dud rate requirement, set in 2008, of 1 percent by 2019. Under the Trump administration, that policy was retained for new production but the new bar was eliminated for updating existing munitions or removing them from service.

According to a 2022 Army publication, different versions of the cluster-armed ATACMS contain between 300 to 950 individual bomblets. It was unclear whether the aging cluster weapons remaining in U.S. stockpiles have been subjected to the same updated dud rate testing as the 155 mm artillery shells.

Last spring, Britain and France provided Ukraine with cruise missiles with a range of about 140 miles – nearly three times as far as what was previously available to Ukraine, but about 50 miles short of the farthest ATACMS range.

Colin Kahl, who served as the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy until early July, said at a think tank forum later that same month that the arrival of those weapons lessened the need for ATACMS. Ukraine’s biggest problem, he said, “is not a hundred kilometers away, it’s one kilometer in front of them with the minefields” the Russians have laid, along with rows of trenches and tank traps, in defensive formations along the 600-mile front line.

The minefields have proved a significant obstacle to Ukrainian advances, especially in the southeast, where Kyiv’s forces hoped to punch through Russian defenses and cut supply lines.

Amid the counteroffensive’s slow progress, the British Storm Shadow and French SCALP cruise missiles have allowed Ukraine to attack targets it has been unable to reach on the ground. U.S. officials have said that long-range capabilities are not a “silver bullet” to solve Ukraine’s problems, even as they acknowledge their usefulness.

But a senior French official said this week that the country has no more SCALPs to send without cutting into its own military readiness, and it is unclear how many more Storm Shadows Britain plans to provide.

(c) 2023, The Washington Post · Karen DeYoung, John Hudson 


5 COMMENTS

  1. These longer range ATACMS missiles will be be able to hit targets not only deep behind the Russian lines but also deeper inside the private territory of Russia itself. Furthermore, as the article here relates, the Cluster Bomb — which explodes into a huge spread out “shower” of literally hundreds of exploding little mini-bombs — is a severely brutal, really outright inhuman weapon. Understandably, over one hundred and twenty nations have prohibited it use.

    So, when, in a Russian village or at a Russian army base, even just one of these monster-munitions-shot-from-Ukraine will detonate, A LOT of Russian people are going to be painfully injured & killed.

    EVERY TIME that — like what has already been happening now for many, many months — Ukraine shoots a drone or a rocket into Russian territory and cheers as some Russian buildings or airplanes are destroyed, and especially now that each of those rockets will will be exploding cluster munitions, we get that much closer to when Russia will, Chas V’Shalom, haul off and retaliate. And I do NOT mean “retaliate” by (like what has been happening until now) shooting some heavy numbers of shells at some Ukraine installation. I mean REAL “retaliate” — with a “certain type” of a “mushroom.” And I do not mean at Ukraine. I mean at Paris or London or New York or Washington or Chicago or somewhere else on the land of Great Britain or our United States or other member of NATO.

    R A C H M A N A – L I T Z L A N ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  2. AND ALL OF THIS PUTTING ALL OF US INTO THE EPITOME OF THE MOST HORRIFIC PHYSICAL DANGER IS FOR WHAT????????? TO DEFEND FREEDOM????????? TO STOP RUSSIAN AGGRESSION?????????

    A B S O L U T E L Y – N O T ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    In 2013, the US government with its wicked CIA overthrew the legitimate government of Ukraine and installed a series of loyal-to-the-West-puppet-presidents (Zelensky is now the current one), who — with their Nazi filled security forces — launched continual bombardment of the Russian populated eastern regions of the country, brutally killing many thousands of civilians. Finally, Russia sent in their troops to try to stop it. Furthermore, Zelensky and the West in general, are spewing forth to the world THE MOST EXCEEDINGLY EXTREME forms of Toeiva, which the Russian people dot not want!!

    SO ZELENSKY & THE US & THE WEST ARE THE AGGRESSORS HERE, NOT THE RUSSIANS!!

  3. Ukraine is absolutely not any kind of “democracy” or “fee country” in any way or form at all!! Its wicked stud Zelensky is a horrid Toeiva guy who publicly flaunts his Toeiva. He rules the country with an iron fist, shutting down all media and political groups except his own. He oversees a kingdom of the most excessive corruption of not only under-the-table money laundering, but also is the hub of evil rings — involving numerous western government officials & other powerful elites — of child trafficking, where children are cruelly abducted to be slaves in the most horrific sinister abuse.

  4. In the 1972 presidential election, the candidate of the Democrat Party was US Senator from South Dakota, George Stanley McGovern (July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012). He was an extremely strong opponent of the US fighting the War in Vietnam, which was then heavily raging and was thus one of the main issues of that era.

    [Of course, a full proper discussion & analysis of the very complex Vietnam conflict is way beyond the scope of our comments here. Therefore, I will though mention one item that is relevant to the remark I need to make here. It is that one of the huge problems of that situation was that South Vietnam (which was not Communist and which the US was allied with in conflict against Communist North Vietnam) was itself NOT a “free” country. Rather, it was a corrupt iron fist dictatorship that its own people severely resented.]

    At the Democratic National Convention, in his acceptance address, Senator McGovern emphatically declared his vehement opposition and that he would immediately end US action there. He then continued: “And then, let us resolve that NEVER AGAIN will we send the precious young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad!!”

    TODAY IN 2023, WHAT IS THE CURRENT (ILLEGITIMATE) US GOVERNMENT DOING IN UKRAINE?????????

    Furthermore, whatever wicked things were done by the then government of South Vietnam, that “corruption” was not even ONE ONE THOUSANDTH of the exceedingly excessive outright demonic evil of the (illegitimate) governments of Ukraine (and the United States) today!!

    Furthermore, Senator McGovern then decried our precious youth being sent to die ABROAD (where the corrupt dictator is). If, Rachamana Litzlan, the evil illegitimate government over the US provokes this Ukraine conflict to be World — NUCLEAR — War III, it will not be only our youth ABROAD (in Ukraine) who will die, but it will also be all of us RIGHT HERE (in the US) who will die!! RACHMANA LITZLAN!!

  5. So, needless to say, we must fervently beg HaKodesh Boruch Hu to save us all from all these evil diabolical plans of these evil illegitimate governments.

    ————————————————————–

    PLEASE NOTE:

    This remark and all the above remarks were written & submitted to Matzav in the PACIFIC TIME ZONE where the time is now 5:47 PM

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