Ukraine Wants ATACMS Over STORM SHADOW! Why Has Kyiv Been Prompting For US Missiles Over British ALCMs?

The US recently awarded BAE Systems a three-year contract for research and development efforts in advancing precision-guided munitions (PGM) to assist the US Army’s long-range, precision fire mission.  

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“We have invested heavily to innovate and develop a highly maneuverable long-range fires capability that will support Soldiers on the battlefield by providing lethality against high-value targets,” said Brent Butcher, vice president of Weapon Systems at BAE Systems.

“We look forward to partnering with DEVCOM AC to continue to advance precision-guided munitions and find the best long-range precision fires solution for the US Army.”

For nearly a decade, BAE Systems has been investing in developing ultra-long-range and hypervelocity munitions. Under this contract, BAE Systems will team with DEVCOM AC to continue to advance the capabilities of precision cannon munitions to defeat fixed and moving targets in GPS-degraded or denied environments at double the range of existing cannon-launched PGMs.

NO ATACMS For Ukraine

Earlier, Derek Hogan, First Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, announced, on May 23, that the US has no plans to supply Ukraine with ATACMS operational-tactical missile systems.

During a hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress, Hogan reportedly addressed the issue of providing military assistance to Kyiv.

Hogan emphasized that while considering specific weapons systems such as ATACMS is always a factor, the current focus is on supplying Ukraine with what is deemed necessary in the present circumstances.

He stated, “When it comes to specific weapons systems like ATACMS, this is always considered. However, now we are providing the Ukrainians with what we think they need at the moment.”

These remarks shed light on Washington’s approach to supporting Ukraine militarily and highlight the deliberations involved in determining the aid to be extended.

ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) missile system. (US Department of Defense)

There appears to be an indication that since the UK has armed Ukraine with long-range Storm Shadow missiles, there is no need for sending ATACMS to Kyiv.

US Hesitant To Provide ATACMS To Ukraine

While the United Kingdom has already delivered the Storm Shadow long-range missiles to Ukraine, the Biden administration appears to diverge from Britain’s course by not providing Ukraine with long-range missiles.

Storm Shadow, produced by MBDA Systems, is a long-range air-launched attack missile primarily utilized by the UK and French armed forces under the name of SCALP-EG. 

It is designed to operate in diverse conditions, including day and night, and possesses deep-strike capabilities with a firing range exceeding 250 kilometers (155 miles). Notably, its range falls approximately 30 miles short of ATACMS missiles.

However, the Ukrainian government has consistently desired the US-made Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

They have already acquired the American Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles and the corresponding HIMARS vehicles capable of launching them, enabling them to strike targets up to 60 miles away. 

File Image: HIMARS

Additionally, the Ukrainians have recently acquired ground-launched Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs) with a range of 90 miles. However, the HIMARS vehicle is also compatible with ATACMS, which boasts an impressive range of roughly 190 miles.

ATACMS has the advantage of being a ballistic rocket missile, which travels at high speeds, making it significantly more challenging to intercept. 

These features, coupled with its extended range, make ATACMS a highly sought-after weapon system by the Ukrainian government. As a result, the Ukrainians have consistently requested ATACMS, with no mention of the Storm Shadow missile.

Ukraine’s specific requirements and the operational advantages and unique characteristics of ATACMS explain why it has persistently sought its acquisition.

However, even after frequent requests from Kyiv, the United States has not shown any intentions to transfer the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. 

In an earlier report by the EurAsian Times, it was revealed that the US discreetly modified the HIMARS rocket launchers provided to Ukraine, specifically to prevent launching long-range missiles toward Russia. 

An ATACMS being launched by an M270 (Wikipedia)

This adjustment clearly indicates the US position, signaling its reluctance to supply Ukraine with such weaponry.

One possible reason for the US’ reluctance is the limited availability of these missiles within the US arsenal. General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, highlighted this aspect during an interview.

He explained that the US military has a relatively small number of ATACMS and must prioritize maintaining an adequate inventory for its operational needs. This consideration from a military standpoint further contributes to the decision not to spare ATACMS for Ukraine. 

Indian military expert and an avid commentator on the Ukraine war, Vijainder Thakur, says that ATACMS follow a predictable ballistic trajectory. Russia has gained a fair degree of proficiency in intercepting rockets fired along a ballistic trajectory. Being longer range, ATACMS will have greater flight time, making them more prone to interception.

However, ATACMS Warhead is smaller than the Storm Shadow missile. The cost of the ATACMS rocket will be much cheaper, and Ukraine will be able to fire many more rockets.

Kyiv wanted a massive number of ATACMS just like HIMARS, to devastate Russian positions, which would not be possible with a limited number of Storm Shadows. More the rockets, the more chance of dodging Russian defenses and hitting their positions.