- Zelensky says “ATACMS have proven themselves” in helicopter attack
- ATACMS’ arrival could greatly hinder Russia’s aerial assault on tanks, vehicles
- New missiles also pose big threat to Moscow’s ammo depots, ISW analysts say
- Biden’s decision to send missiles was a “grave mistake,” the Kremlin cries
- AFU takes down third Su-25 jet in a week
US says new missiles will support Ukraine “against Russia’s brutal invasion”
Washington has surreptitiously delivered a small number of long-range ballistic missiles that Kyiv said it desperately needed and that US President Joe Biden promised last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed Tuesday.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on Tuesday that “the United States recently provided Ukraine with a type of ATACMS capable of ranging out to 165 km (about 100 miles) as part of our ongoing support for the people of Ukraine as they defend their territory against Russia’s brutal invasion. We believe this will provide a significant boost to Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities without risking our military readiness,” she was quoted by CNN as saying.
“My special gratitude today goes to the US,” Zelensky said in his daily address. “Our agreements with President Biden are working. And precisely so. ATACMS have proven themselves.”
Fewer than a dozen of the missiles arrived in Ukraine within the last few days, US officials said. The first attack with the American-made missiles reportedly destroyed several Russian helicopters, an ammunition depot and an air defense launcher on Tuesday.
CNN noted that, before the ATACMS, “the maximum range of US weapons committed to Ukraine is around 93 miles with the ground-launched small diameter bomb. Ukraine also has the UK-provided long-range Storm Shadow missiles, which have a range of about 155 miles.”
ATACMS missiles are fired from HIMARS rocket launchers, already in use by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
A month ago, Kyiv Post’s Bohdan Tuzov argued that the weapons system would be a game-changer for the AFU. “These missiles could effectively target Russian military facilities in occupied Crimea and the high-profile Kerch Bridge. That is assuming the US would not place restrictions on their use against legitimate targets located on Ukrainian territory.”
Today, the Ukrainian parliament passed the bill on politically exposed persons, which is required for our EU accession talks. Our goal is to open them this year.— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) October 17, 2023
We’re doing our part and will complete it. The political decision of EU leaders to open the talks will thereafter be… pic.twitter.com/fCLp1WwNuy
New ATACMS strikes reshuffle the deck for Russian air command
Tuesday’s strikes by long-range missiles newly acquired from the US on Russian helicopters have wreaked havoc on Moscow’s air strategy in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported Tuesday. For many months of the invasion, Russia would use rotary-wing aircraft from the Berdyansk airfield in the western Zaporizhzhia region “to great effect” against Ukraine, the ISW noted. Maybe not so much in the future.
The think tank’s analysts wrote Tuesday that: "Previous satellite imagery of the Berdyansk airfield showed that Russian forces dispersed aircraft across the airfield, and Ukrainian forces were likely only able to conduct strikes on individual aircraft with previously available long-range missiles.
“The cluster munition–armed version of the ATACMS long-range missiles will allow Ukrainian forces to conduct strikes on Russian airfields that can more widely destroy Russian aircraft and other assets.”
The arrival of Western-provided longer-range missiles has allowed Ukrainian forces to conduct repeated strikes on the Chornobaivka airfield, which caused significant damage, “and Russian command withdrew military equipment and aviation from the airfield due to their inability to combat” these kinds of attacks, the ISW wrote.
Furthermore, the ISW hypothesized: “The relocation of aircraft to airfields further in the rear will likely impact the loitering time that Russian aviation will have to support operations. This will likely be particularly significant for Russian rotary-wing aircraft [helicopters], which operated in relatively small sections of the frontline for long periods of time to degrade advancing Ukrainian forces at the beginning of the counteroffensive.”
Russian ambassador to US issues the usual dog-whistle threats after ATACMS gift
“The White House’s decision to send long-range missiles to Ukrainians is a grave mistake. The consequences of this step, which was deliberately hidden from the public, will be of the most serious nature,” he said in a not-wholly-unanticipated statement.
All that’s missing from the Kremlin’s predictable response is more of former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s saber-rattling. Standing by for his nuclear threat du jour in five… four… Oh, wait. Looks like Medvedev has now been tasked with lamenting Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza:
AFU air defenses shoot down a third Russian jet in a week
Ukrainian troops have destroyed their third Russian Su-25 aircraft in a week in the Donetsk region, a Ukrainian unit posted Tuesday on Telegram.
“Total losses of the enemy amounted to 472 people,” the “Tavria” air-defense group posted, accounting for 36 pieces of military equipment in all. “In particular, 4 BBM, 8 artillery systems, 1 anti-aircraft vehicle, Su-25 aircraft, 13 unmanned aerial vehicles, 6 units of automobiles and 1 - special equipment. The enemy's ammunition depot was also destroyed,” they wrote.
Arrival of missiles also a “significant threat” to ammunition depots in rear areas
The longer range of Ukraine’s ballistic arsenal will “likely force the Russian command to choose between fortifying existing depots or further dispersing depots throughout occupied Ukraine,” the ISW said.
Previously, HIMARS missiles given to Ukraine in June 2022 allowed Ukrainian forces to attack and interrupt resupply missions in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions, “part of which targeted overly concentrated Russian ammunition depots,” the ISW recounted, meaning the Russian command had to “reluctantly” shy from using highly concentrated ammunition depots, and were forced to extend the ground lines of communications
The new shipment of ATACMS will “likely present Russian forces with a similar challenge,” the analysts wrote.
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