What is special about the ATACMS which Ukraine wants as part of US aid?

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Ukraine wants the United States to send aid in the form of the Army Combat Missiles (ATACMS), which helps to hit long-range targets. However, the US believes that this is not the weapon system Ukraine needs. Also the delivery of these long-range precision-guided strike weapon systems to Ukraine will escalate the tensions between Russia and the USA.

Since the Russian-Ukrainian war broke out, the US and Western countries have provided aid in the form of a wide range of weapons systems. However, there is still a system that Ukraine very much wants to have, but the US is still refusing to provide.

The Army Combat Missile System (ATACMS) is the weapon that Ukraine says can help it retake Crimea, a territory annexed by Russia in 2014.

ATACMS has a range of up to 300km with a warhead containing 170kg of explosives. The missile can be launched from the highly mobile rocket launcher system HIMARS that the US has supplied to Ukraine, as well as M270 multiple launch rocket systems sent from the UK and Germany.

That is also the reason the US is refusing to provide ATACMS to Ukraine. It believes that supplying weapons that allow Ukraine to attack deep inside Russian Territory and it will escalate military tensions.

The ATACMS is the oldest active ground-launched missile in the US Army. In addition, its successor system is being tested in New Mexico.

The US is still using ATACMS on the battlefield. The US military launched about 30 ATACMS missiles during Operation Desert Storm. They have also been used to attack Iraqi intermediate-range ballistic missile launchers.

The ATACMS missile version uses a cluster warhead that can fly more than 160km and launch 950 rounds. The Pentagon later restricted the use of cluster munitions due to lack of accuracy. The Army then improved the early ATACMS systems in the 2000s, replacing cluster warheads with single warheads.

The Ukrainian side said that, in addition to technical characteristics such as superior range and explosive mass, the US’ agreement to provide ATACMS to Ukraine will also show that the US is really committed to supporting this country.

Because the missile is much larger than previous US-aided missiles, launchers such as the HIMARS multiple rocket launcher system and the M142 multiple launch rocket system, which can carry six guided missiles but can only carry 1 tactical ballistic missile.

The US side is still very firm in its decision not to provide this type of missile to Ukraine. It believes that while both GMLRS and ATACMS are very effective on the battlefield, what Ukraine really needs is more GMLRS systems, not increased long-range firepower.

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