Russian logistics and more will be under attack: ISW analyzes how providing Ukraine with ATACMS will affect the course of the war

Launch of the ATACMS missile

In March 2024, the United States provided Ukraine with an unspecified number of long-range ATACMS missiles, some of which it has already used to hit Russian targets in the rear. The arrival of additional missiles in sufficient numbers will allow the Ukrainian Armed Forces to further disrupt enemy logistics and jeopardize Russian airfields in deep rear areas.

However, it is possible that the months of delay could have given the occupiers time to compensate for the potential operational consequences of the presence of such weapons in the Defense Forces. This is stated in a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on April 24.

The day before, Western media quoted U.S. officials as saying that last month the U.S. secretly sent an unspecified number of ATACMS to Ukraine with a range of about 300 kilometers. A senior Washington official said that since then, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have struck a Russian military base in occupied Crimea and another unidentified target east of the temporarily occupied Berdiansk in Zaporizhzhia region with these missiles.

ISW analysts recalled Ukrainian strikes on April 23 on several S-300 radar systems southeast of Volnovakha (northeast of Berdiansk). At the time, Mariupol mayor's adviser Petro Andriushchenko said that Ukrainian troops had hit Russian positions in Babakh Taram (immediately east of Berdiansk) 10 times during the night.

"It is unclear whether any of these strikes are the ones the US official was talking about, and the Ukrainian military has not yet confirmed its strike near Berdiansk. But it appears that they used ATACMS missiles in a strike on a Russian military airfield in occupied Dzhankoy, Crimea, on the night of April 16-17, destroying or severely damaging four S-400 Triumph launchers, three radars and an air defense system, an equipment control center, and a Murom-M airspace surveillance system," the analysts said.

U.S. officials said that Washington will include additional ATACMS long-range missiles as part of the announced $1 billion tranche of security assistance to Ukraine.

Russian logistics and more will be under attack: ISW analyzes how providing Ukraine with ATACMS will affect the course of the war

According to experts, the arrival of the new ATACMS in sufficient numbers will allow Ukrainian forces to disrupt Russian logistics and jeopardize Russian airfields in deep rear areas, although the months of delay may have given the Russian Armed Forces time to compensate for potential operational consequences.

"Ukraine first used U.S.-supplied ATACMS missiles to strike Russian targets in the occupied territory on October 17, 2023, striking Russian airfields in Berdiansk and Luhansk. Ukrainian forces were likely seeking to disrupt air support for localized Russian offensives, but did not have enough ATACMS to conduct a sustained large-scale effort to stop Russian aircraft," ISW said.

According to the analysts, the cluster munition versions of ATACMS missiles allow Ukrainian forces to conduct more effective airfield strikes that can destroy enemy aircraft and other targets more broadly than missile strikes on individual aircraft. They may encourage Russian forces to move aircraft further from the front line, although it is probably more important for Russia to redeploy helicopters, as they have a much longer range.

The occupiers actively used helicopters to repel Ukrainian mechanized attacks during the summer 2023 counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia region, but have used them much less since then to support their offensive operations in eastern Ukraine.

Russian logistics and more will be under attack: ISW analyzes how providing Ukraine with ATACMS will affect the course of the war

"Currently, the occupiers are actively using aircraft to launch attacks with planning bombs along the entire front line. Their withdrawal to airfields located farther from the front line is likely to affect only the barrage time that Russian pilots have to spend to launch such bombs," ISW believes.

At the same time, experts note that the arrival of additional ATACMS could also pose a significant threat to Russian ammunition depots in the rear areas and force the Russian command to choose between strengthening existing depots and further dispersing them throughout the occupied territory.

"Russian forces may have already adapted to potential new Ukrainian strike capabilities following the use of ATACMS in October 2023, although it remains unclear whether they have sufficiently reinforced BC depots or widely dispersed them," the analysts noted.

They recalled that the arrival of HIMARS in Ukraine in June 2022 allowed the Armed Forces to conduct an operationally significant campaign during the counteroffensive in Kherson and Kharkiv regions. The strikes forced the occupiers to expand their logistics to longer land lines, which ultimately complicated the supply of the Russian Armed Forces with ammunition and supplies.

Experts are convinced that if the Russian command began attempts to compensate for the impact of ATCAMS in October 2023, Ukrainian strikes with such missiles in the spring and summer of 2024 may cause fewer problems for enemy logistics in Ukraine. But at the same time, these long-range weapons will allow the Ukrainian Armed Forces to threaten a wider range of Russian targets in deep rear areas, and Ukrainian forces could use them to inflict greater damage on Russian logistics facilities and important bridges.

"However, Ukrainian strikes against Russian logistics or Russian air assets in the deep rear are likely to have operational value only if the Ukrainian Armed Forces successfully coordinate them with ground operations to exploit the weakened Russian capabilities resulting from the strikes," the ISW concluded.

As OBOZ.UA reported earlier, military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko told how ATACMS could easily destroy Russian air defense in Crimea. He announced how many such missiles would be needed for this.

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