Editors Note: It’s systems like this combined with US targeting assistance that will force Russia to act directly against U.S. and NATO. The only question is when.
Drago Bosnic, independent geopolitical and military analyst
As we all know, American involvement in Ukraine is crucial. The United States initiated the war back in 2014 after decades of setting it up by financing the most radical elements of the Ukrainian society, resulting in their takeover of the unfortunate country after the Maidan coup. Since then, the US has been modernizing and training the Kiev regime forces. The culmination of this process was prevented by Russia’s counteroffensive, which forced the political West to invest enormous resources just to keep the Neo-Nazi junta afloat. Since the start of the special military operation (SMO), the political West has been doing everything in its power to keep escalating the conflict.
What started out as deliveries of various types of ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) and MANPADS (man-portable air defense systems) soon turned into full-blown support for the Kiev regime through massive shipments of modernized Warsaw Pact-era weapons (tanks, artillery, rockets, helicopters, fighter jets, etc). These were then complemented by NATO and US-made weapons and munitions, the deliveries of which keep escalating to ever more dangerous and longer-range missiles and other systems. All the while, Western officials are parroting meaningless “assurances” that they supposedly “don’t want escalation with Moscow”. Obviously, the exact opposite has been happening.
These schizophrenic tendencies are not subsiding in the slightest, as evidenced by recent comments made by Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State in the troubled Biden administration. During an interview with ABC News on September 10, Blinken stated that it was supposedly “up to Ukraine” whether or not it should target Russia proper with US-made long-range weapons. The idea that the Kiev regime could ever make such a decision on its own is beyond laughable, which means that it’s the belligerent thalassocracy itself that ordered the Neo-Nazi junta to target civilian and military targets within Russia. Blinken’s statement came only a day after ABC News reported that the US would provide the ATACMS to the Kiev regime.
The MGM-140 ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) is a US-made supersonic tactical/theater ballistic missile system with a maximum range of approximately 300 km. While its range and maximum speed of Mach 3 don’t exactly make it a revolutionary weapon (for instance, Russia’s “Iskander” is twice as good, both in terms of range and speed), this is still enough to jeopardize Russian supply lines, as well as civilian settlements deeper within Moscow’s territory. The ATACMS can also be fired from the tracked M270 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System), as well as the wheeled M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), both of which have been delivered to the Neo-Nazi junta forces well over a year ago.
The system comes in five variants of missiles developed since the 1990s. The basic M39 (ATACMS Block I) uses INS (inertial navigation system) and carries 950 M74 APAM (anti-personnel and anti‑materiel) bomblets. Its range is up to 165 km. Production ceased in 1997.
It was replaced by the M39A1 (ATACMS Block IA) with improved GPS guidance. In part due to its smaller warhead carrying 300 M74 APAM bomblets, the range was extended to 300 km. Production ended in 2003.
The M48 (ATACMS Quick Reaction Unitary or simply QRU) GPS-guided missile carries the WDU-18/B penetrating high explosive blast fragmentation warhead found on the “Harpoon” anti-ship missile, only repackaged into the newly designed WAU-23/B warhead section. Its range is also estimated at up to 300 km. Production ceased in 2004.
The updated M57 (ATACMS TACMS 2000) GPS-guided missile of the same range also uses the WAU-23/B, but its production ended in 2013. It sports an increased accuracy of 9 m CEP (circular error probability), but was soon complemented by the enhanced M57E1.
The M57E1 (ATACMS Modification or just MOD) is also GPS-guided and is essentially an upgraded M39/M39A1 with better propulsion, updated guidance and WAU-23/B instead of the M74 APAM bomblets. It also includes a proximity sensor for airburst detonation, which is particularly deadly against infantry and civilians. Production started in 2017.
As previously mentioned, such weapons are not exactly groundbreaking for the Russian military that possesses far more potent missiles, both ground-based and air-launched, but the real issue comes from the fact that the political West is providing the necessary ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) data. This is a significant force multiplier that can make even a relatively mediocre weapon such as the ATACMS more dangerous. Moscow is doing its best to keep the scope of the SMO localized, but NATO continues to escalate, as evidenced by the resurgent presence of its ISR platforms around Russia’s borders, particularly in the Black Sea, which puts the Eurasian giant’s naval forces deployed there in jeopardy.
The Russian military already shot down some of NATO’s ISR platforms, resulting in several months of pause in flights close to the SMO zone. However, the belligerent alliance recently restarted this highly destabilizing practice. Moscow is perfectly aware that the political West controls the Kiev regime’s targeting, even issuing orders which Russian assets are to be attacked. The sole reason why Russia hasn’t responded by shooting down all NATO ISR platforms in relative vicinity of its forces is that it wants to avoid escalating the conflict into a world-ending thermonuclear confrontation. However, the US-led political West sees this as a weakness and an opportunity to test Russian patience, which is slowly running out.