Ukraine will receive US-made ATACMS, but after a year – a source

It looks like a big boost is on the horizon for Ukraine’s military capabilities. As per a proposed defense bill, the US is gearing up to provide the Army Tactical Missile System [ATACMS] to Ukraine. This significant move comes with a hefty $80 million allocation for the weapon purchase, EurAsian Times wrote.

Washington wants an extension of the arms embargo against Iran
Photo credit: VOA

However, the journey of the ATACMS to Ukraine is not a rapid one. We’re looking at of a timeline at least a year, thanks to the necessary procedural and industrial sequences that must unfold. 

Why the delay, you ask? Well, these missiles aren’t just plucked from US military stockpiles. Instead, they’re custom-ordered by the industry, which needs time to carefully craft each piece of this advanced weaponry. So, patience is indeed a virtue when it comes to equipping Ukraine with these high-tech missiles.

The US has finally given the green light to supply Ukraine with a third weapon system – the ATACMS. This decision comes after a year of initial hesitation, following approvals for main battle tanks and F-16 fighters.

There was a particular apprehension surrounding F-16s and ATACMS. The US was concerned that their usage might extend to strikes within Russia’s borders. This could provoke a severe backlash, potentially dragging Washington and Europe into the conflict’s vortex. 

Despite rumors, US may not provide Ukraine with 300km-range ATACMS
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Three expert weapons are being prepared for Ukraine, expected to be ready within a year. US officials predict the M1A2 Abrams tank and F-16 jets will be ready for battle by next year after extensive training and maintenance. This marks a major change for Ukrainian pilots, moving from Soviet-era methods to Western combat strategies. A new era of warfare is beginning.

The MGM-140 ATACMS is a powerful missile that can travel 190 miles – roughly four times the range of Ukraine’s strongest HIMARS rockets. It’s launched from various rocket systems, including the US’s M142 HIMARS. With Ukraine’s recent acquisition of Abrams and F-16s, the addition of ATACMS was expected. 

The draft bill shows that $80 million is allocated for Ukraine to procure ATACMS. This is under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative [USAI], involving governmental and market financial transactions. However, delivery of these potent missiles won’t be immediate, as the US isn’t using its military stockpile for this deal.

Consider a large-scale chess match where countries are participants, and military tools are the chess pieces. The Presidential Drawdown Authority [PDA] is a tactic used by the US to provide Ukraine with weapons from its stockpile. This move has previously supplied Ukraine with various military equipment such as Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, artillery rounds, lightweight howitzer, and tanks. 

m142 himars mlrs lockeed martin
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

On May 30, President Joe Biden, standing outside the White House, discussed the matter of providing Ukraine with US ATACMS missiles. He suggested that the decision was under consideration. This was in reaction to the increasing air attacks by Russia in Ukraine. Biden remained calm, stating that these actions by Russia were expected, and reiterated the importance of supplying Ukraine with the necessary equipment.

The Ukrainian Ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, noticed a change in the US’s stance on military aid to Kyiv on June 14. Various factors are causing this shift.  

This change mainly relates to ATACMS’s long-range missile delivery. Markarova stated, “Many of our initial ‘no’ responses have turned into a ‘yes'”. This refers to Ukraine’s successful efforts to acquire modern weaponry like HIMARS, anti-air systems, and main battle tanks. However, transporting these high-tech systems to Ukraine takes a significant amount of time.

Russia announced that it had destroyed two US-made HIMARS MRLs
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Acquiring the ATACMS for Ukraine involves navigating complex US bureaucracy and a lengthy manufacturing process, with a timeline of at least a year. The draft National Defense Bill even mandates the Secretary of Defense to update Congressional defense committees on the progression by year’s end.  

Photo credit: Twitter

The hearing with Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin could potentially occur in the next two to three months. After that, the formal order to Lockheed Martin, the producer of ATACMS, can be made. However, the production process will still take several months.

Defense company executives have been strategizing about increasing production through efficient supply management. However, post-Covid supply chain disruptions and a declining American manufacturing sector have created challenges. 

These companies need various small motors, castings, microelectronics, and microchips for rockets and missiles. For instance, even after Lockheed’s $65 million investment in a new factory line, increasing production from six to eight units per month is difficult, as mentioned by Politico last year.


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