The long-range munitions, repeatedly demanded by Kiev, will reportedly come with controversial cluster warheads
Washington is expected to deliver a "small number" of long-range ATACMS surface-to-surface missiles to Ukraine, US media outlets reported on Friday, citing multiple officials familiar with the matter.
The pledge was reportedly made by US President Joe Biden during a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky the day before. The officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, did not reveal when the announcement on the ATACMS package will be made or when the missiles will actually make it to Ukraine, only describing the number of munitions to be delivered as "small."
The ATACMS missiles boast a range of around 190 miles (more than 300 kilometers), with their anticipated delivery expected to further enhance Ukraine's long-range capabilities. Kiev has repeatedly demanded munitions of this type from Washington, with the Biden administration's position on the matter seemingly shifting over the past few months from a flat refusal towards "consideration" of such move.
It was not immediately clear whether Washington would provide Kiev with additional launchers to fire ATACMS missiles. Should it not allocate additional vehicles for this task, the missiles will apparently be fired by HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and other systems of its family, previously supplied to Kiev by Washington and other NATO allies.
The missiles are expected to feature controversial cluster warheads, which contain dozens of smaller bomblets, several sources told the Washington Post. The anonymous officials offered no explanation why exactly a cluster version of the missile was picked. Still. Cluster warhead ATACMS missiles are believed to be more readily available and more plentiful in US stocks than those fitted with a large, unitary payload.
Earlier this year, the US agreed to supply Kiev with cluster artillery shells in standard NATO 155mm caliber, admitting it was a "stop-gap measure" to compensate for the shortage of conventional munitions. The delivery was harshly criticized, even by the closest US allies, given the controversial nature of such munitions. Cluster shells have been banned by many countries worldwide for their high dud rates and ability to pollute the battlefield with unexploded bomblets, which remain live and pose a threat to civilians for years.