Ukraine’s ATACMS missile attack last week may have damaged 21 Russian helicopters, more than initially reported.
On October 17, the Ukrainian army announced a successful raid on airports near the eastern city of Lugansk and Berdyansk in the south, destroying 9 helicopters and an anti-aircraft missile launcher. This is believed to be the first time Ukraine used Army Tactical Missiles (ATACMS) transferred by the US to attack Russian targets.
However, after analyzing satellite images of Russian bases, GeoConfirmed, a platform specializing in verifying the geographical location of military information, said that the ATACMS missile attack caused greater damage to the squadron Russian helicopter.
Based on scorch marks on satellite images taken of the airport after the raid and comparison with the location of Russian assets before the attack, GeoConfirmed determined that the ATACMS missile may have destroyed or damaged at least 21 helicopters, a radar station and possibly a Pantsir air defense complex.
“This may be the strongest blow to the Russian air force since the beginning of the war,” GeoConfirmed said.
Intelligence Insight, an intelligence analysis group in Ukraine, said that GeoConfirmed’s assessment was made on “solid foundations.” However, this number is slightly higher than the data published by Intelligence Insight because The group only includes information that publicly available commercial images can verify.
Fighter Bomber account of a Russian fighter pilot also previously said the raid was the “most serious blow” the country’s air force suffered in Ukraine but did not reveal specific damage.
The ATACMS missile model that the US transferred to Ukraine is said to be the M39 variant using cluster bullets, with a range of about 165 km. It weighs 2 tons, uses a solid fuel engine, the warhead contains 950 M74 submunitions, is equipped with an inertial guidance system, and can be fired from many launchers such as HIMARS and MLRS M270 rocket artillery in the Ukrainian army.
According to experts, its wide-area damage properties make the M39 suitable for attack targets such as Russian airports.
An officer nicknamed Bullet, commander of an air defense battery of Russia’s Southern Army, said that the country’s forces do not yet clearly understand the characteristics of ATACMS to deal with it because this missile has just been introduced into combat in Ukraine.