The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, is a long-range guided missile produced by Lockheed Martin. It carries a 500-pound class blast fragmentation warhead. It is fitted with a specialized GPS system and has a maximum range of 300 kilometers (186.4 miles). The ATACMS the U.S. has supplied to Ukraine have shorter ranges, but carry cluster munitions which, when fired, open in the air and release hundreds of bomblets over a given area. (Related: Ukraine's experimental DRONE BOATS strike two Russian Navy ships in Crimea.)
Ukraine claims the missiles will help fuel its counteroffensive, which has been going on for months, by enabling its troops to strike Russian targets while staying out of firing range.
The first Ukrainian strikes of the ATACMS were launched in the evening of Tuesday local time and Ukrainian sources claim the strike destroyed nine Russian helicopters, an ammunition dump, at least one anti-aircraft missile system and other military equipment at two airfields in Russian-occupied Berdyansk and the pro-Russian separatist region of Luhansk. Ukraine also claims the missiles successfully damaged airfield runways and killed over a dozen Russian combatants.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later confirmed that the ATACMS had been used against Russia and were launched "very accurately." He also thanked the United States for supplying Ukraine with the weapons.
"Today, I am especially grateful to the United States. Our agreements with President Biden are being implemented. And they are being implemented very accurately – ATACMS have proven themselves," said Zelensky.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the delivery of ATACMS to Ukraine was "another mistake by the United States." Putin made this remark at a summit during the Belt and Road forum in Beijing, his first trip to a country outside the former Soviet Union since March.
Putin also said the delivery of ATACMS missiles to Ukraine would not do the country any good. "It will simply prolong Ukraine's agony," he said.
The Russian president added that he does recognize that the new missiles could pose a threat to Russian forces in Ukraine. However, he noted that in the long run, these missiles will not change the course of the conflict.
"War is war," said Putin. "And, of course, I have said that [ATACMS] pose a threat. It goes without saying. But what counts most is that they are completely unable to drastically change the situation along the line of contact. It's impossible."
Putin also took the opportunity to criticize Biden – who Zelensky personally credited for the expedited delivery of the missiles – and the United States for the delivery of the missiles, arguing that if Western narratives about Russia losing the war are true, then there is no need for Kyiv to receive more advanced weaponry.
"If Russia has lost the war, why supply ATACMS? Let [the U.S.] take ATACMS back, along with every other weapon," he said. "Let [Biden] sit down and eat pancakes, let him come here for tea [if Russia has lost]."
Learn more about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine at UkraineWitness.com.
Watch this video from "Warthog Productions" discussing Ukraine's first strike against Russian forces using the U.S.-supplied ATACMS missiles.