TechUkraine's devastating strike: ATACMS missiles hit Russian airport

Ukraine's devastating strike: ATACMS missiles hit Russian airport

Launch of an MGM-140 ATACMS missile.
Launch of an MGM-140 ATACMS missile.
Images source: © East News

5:49 PM EDT, May 28, 2024

During the night of May 27 to 28, 2024, Ukrainians launched an attack on a Russian airport near Luhansk using MGM-140 ATACMS ballistic missiles. Here are the capabilities of the weapon that caused a massive fire.

A video has surfaced online showing the aftermath of the MGM-140 ATACMS ballistic missile strikes. The exact losses of the Russians at the time of writing this article are not known, but a large fire, likely at a fuel depot, was observed.

The attack was carried out using cluster warhead missiles, allowing for a large area of impact. It is also possible that photos of another wreckage of an S-300/400 system battery might emerge, similar to previous incidents.

MGM-140 ATACMS ballistic missiles - effective "rain of death" from the USA

Ukrainians have mostly used the M39 or M39A1 missiles, which are variants with cluster warheads. The M39 is an older version from the 1990s with a range of about 103 miles, while the M39A1 is a newer version with slightly less destructive power but a range of 186 miles.

The M39 is equipped only with an inertial navigation system, but its inaccuracy is significantly offset by the immense destructive power of the warhead, which contains 950 M74 APAM bomblets.

In the case of the M39A1, the payload has been reduced to 300 pieces because an increased amount of rocket fuel takes up part of the space in the warhead. However, the use of more precise satellite navigation was intended to provide a similar target destruction potential.

It is worth noting that the Russians have learned to jam satellite navigation effectively, but this poses a greater problem for weapons with less destructive power, such as the GLSDB or M982 Excalibur missiles.

Even with the M39A1 missiles, a few dozen meters error will not be a big problem. Each M74 APAM bomblet is a 2.4-inch diameter sphere weighing 1.3 pounds with an effective blast radius of several meters.

The tungsten casing houses a strong explosive charge, an impact fuse, and an incendiary element. During the bomblet's explosion, its casing creates fragments that penetrate bulletproof vests, and the incendiary mixture triggers fires, for example, from fuel leaking from damaged aircraft or tanks.

In practice, anything alive and not hidden in a bunker or armored vehicle at the moment of the attack has virtually no chance of survival. It is a very powerful weapon with which the Russians are having significant difficulty coping, as can be seen in footage showing engagements of the S-400 Triumf system versus the MGM-140 ATACMS.

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