TechUS considering disposal of 'expired' ATACMS missiles while Ukraine eyes its potential

US considering disposal of 'expired' ATACMS missiles while Ukraine eyes its potential

Launching ATACMS from M270.
Launching ATACMS from M270.
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

8:57 AM EST, January 4, 2024

As noted by Defense Express, the American military had around 1100 M39 and M39A1 ATACMS missiles at their disposal at the end of 2023. There's speculation regarding the potential distribution or disposal of "expired" ATACMS missiles to Ukraine. These missiles have surpassed their expiration dates.

In an interview with Newsweek, Rice mentioned that such missiles could be used "very effectively" against Russian forces. Zaluzhny's former adviser emphasizes that these missiles are functional, and in the US, they are due to be replaced with improved, more effective, and cheaper projectiles. Newsweek also implies that the usefulness of these missiles largely depends on how much time has passed since their expiration date. However, ATACMS can generally be operated even two years past their "expiration". The decision to not send an unspecified number of these missiles is said to be political, unrelated to safety concerns.

An overview of ATACMS from the USA

The ATACMS missiles mentioned here, currently in the possession of the USA, are variants dubbed M39 and M39A1. Both share identical dimensions, measuring nearly 13 feet long and approximately 2 feet in diameter and are powered by a solid-fuel rocket engine. Conversely, they differ in terms of the manufacturer-installed internal components.

The former variant features ammunition comprised of 950 anti-infantry and anti-tank M74 bombs. Each bomb weighs just over 1lb, and during an attack, the M39 covers an area exceeding 355214 sq feet. The operational range of this particular ATACMS variant exceeds 99 miles.

The total mass of a single M39 (Block I) projectile is nearly 1.87 tons, with the warhead weighing approximately 1323lbs. Its maximum velocity is 3 Ma (3281 ft/s).

The other variant stored in the USA, the M39A1 (Block IA), utilizes GPS-assisted guidance (in contrast to the M39's inertial guidance system), and can carry significantly fewer M74 bombs, specifically around 300 units. This M39A1 missile weighs about 1.43 tons, and its operational range extends to 186 miles. It is important to note that this and the newer variants can only be deployed using M270A1 and M142 launchers.

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