TechATACMS missiles system in Ukraine are destroying the Russian havocs. They are powerful

ATACMS missiles system in Ukraine are destroying the Russian havocs. They are powerful

Himars rocket launchers
Himars rocket launchers
Images source: © GETTY | SOPA Images

7:17 AM EDT, October 22, 2023, updated: 7:05 AM EDT, October 25, 2023

The Ukrainian army officially does not possess them. However, ATACMS missiles are already wreaking havoc on Russian airfields. Vladimir Putin's army will have to move its planes and helicopters even further away from the front line.

NATO has long been unwilling to provide long-range missiles for the M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS systems. So far, US have been supplying M30A1 GMLRS-AW and M31A2 GMLRS-U guided rockets with a range of up to approximately 52 miles. This allowed Ukraine to attack targets in Crimea and directly behind the front line. Only plans for the supply of GLSDB precision artillery ammunition with a declared range of up to approximately 93 miles are in the pipeline.

Fears of escalation of conflict

For a long time, administration refused to provide ATACMS long-range missiles, fearing that this would escalate the conflict. However, in July of this year, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that there was a possibility of their transfer. This happened after the United Kingdom and France supplied Storm Shadow and SCALP-EG missiles.

Officially, ATACMS missiles were not on the list of equipment transferred to Ukraine. However, they could be concealed under the item: "additional guided rocket ammunition GMLRS for multi-barreled rocket launchers M142 HIMARS". Until the attack on the night of the 16 to 17 of October Eastern Time at the airports in occupied Berdyansk and Lugansk, there were no indications that the missiles had reached the east.

Night attack on Russian bases

On Tuesday, October 17, the Ukrainian Armed Forces Command announced in a brief statement that effective strikes were carried out on "two airbases of the Russian occupying forces, where helicopters and other military equipment were stationed, as well as Russian armed forces personnel".

Ukraine then reported that four missiles fell on the air base in Berdiansk. At least two helicopters on the ground, a self-propelled artillery system, and an ammunition warehouse were destroyed.

Satellite images have also started circulating online, based on which it could be determined that at least nine helicopters, a self-propelled anti-aircraft system Pantsir-S1, were destroyed at both bases - Berdiansk and Lugansk - and the runway and stands were damaged.

Powerful weapon

Shortly after the attack, the first reports appeared that ATACMS missiles may have fallen on the bases. Photos of an unexploded M74 APAM submunition, which is used to destroy manpower and lightly armored targets - trucks, material depots or aircraft on stands were published.

This type of submunition is used exclusively by the MGM-140 ATACMS Block 1/M39 ballistic missiles with a range, respectively, from 16 to 103 miles or MGM-140 ATACMS Block 1A/M39A with a range from 43 to 186 miles.

Each warhead contains 300 submunitions. The asymmetrical design of the charge casing ensures the rotation of the triggering element when it is ejected from the missile. As soon as the rotational speed reaches 2400 rpm, its fuse is activated. Hundreds of M74s, falling almost simultaneously, create an explosion cloud with a diameter dependent on the height of the submunition release.

Problem for Russia?

On October 2, an article "ATACMS: a big problem for Russia or not?" appeared on the Russian service The author, Roman Skomorochow, noted that "although the ground-to-air missile systems (S-300 and S-400 - ed.) have some capabilities in terms of missile defense, ATACMS is a difficult target to destroy quickly."

"If the complex's missiles were used in a layered attack, it would be even more difficult even in the case of such advanced missiles as the S-400" - could be read.

"Taking into account that even after six months of attacks on our airports and ports, there is no usual dispersion of ships and airplanes, it is obvious that the damages will be quite significant" - it was noted.

Just two weeks were enough and the analyst's words proved to be true. The Russians encountered another problem.

In December 2022, due to drone attacks, the Russians had to withdraw their strategic bombers from Engels-2 base. Similarly, the situation occurred in Diagilev, from where all Tu-22M3s were evacuated, including a destroyed specimen that had its tail torn off by a missile. Since then, they have only returned to their bases to attach weapons. This is a big problem for the Russians, as only these two bases have the equipment necessary to service heavy bombers.

Now, Putin's army may have a similar problem at their frontline bases. Due to the threat of an attack, soldiers will have to withdraw combat helicopters out of the range of Ukrainian missiles. This will pose logistic issues for them. The helicopters will still have to land at the frontline bases to refuel or restock weapons.

Again like ducks?

Of course, the Russians may risk leaving airships at bases near the front line. They've done so before. Because of this, the Ukrainians regularly destroyed helicopters at the airport in Chornobaivka near Kherson. Putin's troops have learned nothing.

During the shelling at the airport, the headquarters of the 49th Combined Arms Army were located. First, on March 12, 2022 at in result of rocket shelling, Lt. Col. Vyacheslav Savinkov, the army's artillery commander, died. In turn, on March 25, the army's commander, Lt. Gen. Yakov Rezantsev, was killed.

About three months later, in the same place, three colonels and the same number of lieutenant colonels died, including the commander of the 20th Motorized Rifle Division, his deputy for line matters, the chief of staff, and the divisional artillery commander. The next day, the new artillery commander of the 49th General Army, Walenty Daniłow, died from his wounds.

The land forces are constantly complaining about the lack of air support. On one hand, the Russians must therefore maintain or increase the frequency of flights, and on the other, they can't risk being exposed to fire.

Whatever they choose, it will be problematic for them. And ATACMS missiles are already wreaking havoc.

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