WASHINGTON, US — Do you remember maybe a week and a half ago the artillery attack on Mariupol? The media quickly covered the news. The Russians, who temporarily occupied the city, were quite surprised. Not to mention the defeats, the photos of which went around the world.
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At the time, speculation prevailed that the Ukrainians had used US-supplied HIMARS systems. However, just two days ago, on February 28, a member of the Ukrainian defense industry revealed a long-kept development. Mr. Ivan Vinnyk, the first deputy head of the National Association of the Ukrainian Defense Industry, spoke about it.
More information was provided at the XV US-Ukraine Security Dialogue Conference in Washington. It is about the Ukrainian Vilkha-M cruise artillery missile. Developed without much fanfare, this missile is actually a modification of the Soviet artillery missile for the BM-30 Smerch. Vilkha-M is 7.6 meters or 25 feet long.
The operational range of the missile is just over 110 km or 68 miles. The missile is launched from a multiple-launch rocket system [MLRS]. According to Mr. Vinnyk, the Vilkha-M is a very accurate missile, although there is no information on how accurate it is. Its warhead is 300 mm, and it 485 pounds.
If we compare Vilkha-M with GMLRS munition for HIMARS, which Ukraine has, we will find a difference. For example, the American munition has a range of 80 km or 50 miles, and its warhead is 227 mm.
According to Mr. Vinnyk, Vilkha-M actively participated in the Ukrainian artillery since the beginning of the war. To be more precise, according to the Ukrainian’s claims, the artillery rocket has been active since May last year. For reference – before the start of the war, Ukraine had 100 units of this ammunition.
Mr. Vinnyk spoke about the precision of Vilkha-M. The design of the rocket includes dozens of small holes releasing fuel. These are called “gas rudders” and according to Mr. Vinnyk, they are precisely what give the precise aim and hit of an attack. By releasing fuel through the small holes and using the GPS, the missile is guided.
It was the attacks on the temporarily Russian-occupied city of Mariupol that raised the question of whether Kyiv had used Vilkha-M to carry them out. There is a very real possibility that Ukrainian cruise artillery missiles attacked the city. This information remains unconfirmed, however. Let us recall that the nearest Ukrainian parts to the city of Mariupol were 50 km away.
Currently, there is talk among the Ukrainian defense industry that Vilkha-M will get an extended range – up to 150 km. At least according to Mr. Vinnyk, such plans exist and are underway. However, when they will be ready, where they will be located, and how much – there is no information. According to Mr. Vinnyk and “his hopes”, the Vilkha-M can take part in operations in the area south of the Sea of Azov.
It is noteworthy that if the extended range of 150 km is reached, the Vilkha-M will have the same range as the GMLRS munition recently approved for delivery by Washington.
These facts again raise the question of the delivery of ATACMS missiles. Their range is 300 km. I.e. Vilkha-M with an increased range will have twice the range of the “missiles coveted by the Ukrainians”. But official Washington has so far refused to supply ATACMS to the Ukrainian armed forces. For now, Ukraine will have to make do with American GMLRS munitions for HIMARS and domestic Vilkha-M.
There are quite a few positives in the whole story. One of them is that, despite the war and the predicament of the Ukrainians, Kyiv is able to work on the development and integration of long-range artillery. At least Vilkha-M is proof of that. Despite the limited number.
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