TechUkrainian strikes on Crimea with advanced U.S. missiles challenge Russian defenses

Ukrainian strikes on Crimea with advanced U.S. missiles challenge Russian defenses

ATACMS system
ATACMS system
Images source: © East News | HANDOUT
3:12 PM EDT, April 30, 2024

Ukrainian forces launched further attacks using MGM-140 ATACMS ballistic missiles against Russian airports in Crimea, targeting, among others, the airports in Dzhankoi and Simferopol. This article delves into the context of these assaults and outlines the weaponry the Ukrainians employ.

On the night of April 29, 2024, Ukrainian forces initiated another round of strikes on Russian airfields in Crimea. Reports from Russian sources indicate the use of up to 15 MGM-140 ATACMS ballistic missiles armed with cluster munitions, fired from near Beryslav in the Kherson region.

Although Dzhankoi airport is reachable by older versions of the M39 missiles, Simferopol represents a target approximately 124 miles away. This suggests using more recent missile systems from the latest American supply, capable of hitting targets up to 186 miles distant.

Footage from the vicinity of Dzhankoi airport revealed a red sky phenomenon following the impact, similar to what was observed in preceding strikes.

MGM-140 ATACMS - A Potent Weapon against Russian S-400 Systems

The use of cluster munitions indicates that Ukraine deployed both M39 and M31A1 missile variants. Each missile type is loaded with M74 APAM bomblets, roughly the size of a ball with a 2.36-inch diameter and weighing about 1.3 pounds. These bomblets have a tungsten shell encapsulating an explosive and incendiary agent.

Upon striking the ground, the bomblets explode, dispersing tungsten shrapnel capable of breaching bulletproof vests, aircraft exteriors, and light armor. The explosion also disperses an incendiary compound akin to thermite in the immediate area, potentially igniting fires and even melting through armor.

The M39 missiles, with a range of roughly 102 miles, rely solely on less accurate inertial navigation and can carry up to 950 M74 APAM bomblets, allowing for extensive area impact. Conversely, the M31A1 variant extends its reach to about 186 miles. It carries a lesser load of 300 bomblets but includes satellite navigation to enhance strike precision, aiming for comparable effectiveness with a smaller payload.

It's important to highlight that the Russians have adapted to jam GPS signals, somewhat diminishing the accuracy of the missiles. Nevertheless, given the powerful impact of these weapons, even minor deviations from the target, such as a few dozen yards, are not as consequential as with weaker munitions like the GLSDB missiles.

The Ukrainian strategy aims to immobilize as many Russian aircraft and medium-range air defense systems, including the S-400 Triumf, as possible on the ground. The full impact of these attacks remains to be seen.

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