Ukraine fired a US long-range missile for the first time
The US Army tested the ATACMS missile at White Sands training ground, New Mexico State, in December 2021. Photo: US Army.

President Zelensky confirmed that the Ukrainian army, for the first time, launched US long-range ATACMS missiles from HIMARS rocket artillery to attack Russian force positions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on October 17 that the country’s military had used the long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) transferred by the US under the agreement that Kyiv reached with US President Joe Biden.

“ATACMS has demonstrated its capacity and accuracy. Special thanks to the US,” President Zelensky said but did not specify the target this long-range missile system attacked. This is the first time Ukraine has confirmed that its military has used ATACMS missiles since the outbreak of hostilities with Russia.

Video released by Ukraine shows the HIMARS rocket artillery complex continuously launching three ATACMS missiles from a tree line at night.

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US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson later confirmed the transfer of ATACMS missiles to Ukraine.

“We believe that ATACMS will significantly enhance Ukraine’s combat capabilities without reducing the combat readiness of the US military,” Watson said.

The ATACMS missile has a maximum range of about 300 km, but Watson said the version delivered “recently” to Ukraine has a lower range, about 165 km. Several US officials told CNN that Washington withheld information about the transfer of ATACMS to Kyiv to surprise Moscow.

The Ukrainian army yesterday announced successful raids on airports near the eastern city of Lugansk and southern Berdyansk, near the Sea of ​​Azov, destroying 9 helicopters and an anti-aircraft missile launcher, but did not state the type of weapon used.

Russian-appointed officials in Zaporizhzhia province announced that Russian air defense intercepted the ATACMS missile aimed at Berdyansk, and the submunition in the missile fell in the area near the city.

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said the decision to transfer ATACMS missiles to Ukraine “was a fatal mistake by the White House.” “The consequences of this move, which has been kept from the public, will be very serious,” Ambassador Antonov said. “The US continues to promote direct conflict between NATO and Russia.”

Mr. Antonov declared that “no gift from the US will affect the balance of power” in the area covered by Russia’s Northern Military District. “We will complete all tasks of the special military operation,” he said.

Ukraine, for many months, asked the US to provide ATACMS missiles and pledged not to use these weapons to attack Russian territory. Ukrainian officials believe that this weapon will help them change the outcome of the conflict with Russia.

According to senior Ukrainian officials, ATACMS missiles will allow the country’s military to disrupt supply lines and attack air bases and railway networks in areas Russia controls that they previously could not attack.

With a range of 165 km, ATACMS missiles can allow Ukraine to attack targets twice as far as the rockets of HIMARS rocket artillery and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) that they have received as aid.

ATACMS has many variants, from those with high-explosive warheads to those carrying hundreds of submunitions. In addition to allowing attacks on the positions of Russian forces at longer distances, making it difficult for the enemy to respond, ATACMS can help Ukraine attack more targets in the Crimean peninsula.