Lawmakers want US to provide Army tactical missiles to Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are seeking to force an embattled U.S. administration to provide the Army with tactical missile systems to Ukraine as she fends off Russia.

In the House Armed Services Committee chairman’s markup on the 2024 defense policy bill, the committee requests that “not less than $80.0 million be used to procure [ATACMS] for the Armed Forces of Ukraine”.

According to the draft bill released June 12, the committee wants the defense secretary to brief congressional defense committees by the end of the year on the availability of ATACMS for Ukraine and on progress in using Ukraine Security Initiative funding for their market.

Lockheed Martin’s ballistic missile has been in service since 1991 and has a range of 300 kilometers. Ukraine has repeatedly requested ATACMS, and President Joe Biden has been pressured by lawmakers to send them.

But the Biden administration has expressed concern that the ATACMS mission could deplete US stockpiles and that there is a possibility they could be used to strike Russian territory, despite Kiev’s promises to deploy them only in Ukraine.

“I’m not in the business of making announcements about what the department or the administration is going to provide to Ukraine,” Army Secretary Christine Warmuth said during a June 13 media briefing at the Pentagon when asked about the proposed legislation.

But “I don’t think the thinking has changed in this building about ATACMS,” he added. “Most of Congress really wants to support Ukraine, and I think it’s pushed the department and the administration to lean into that as much as possible, but I don’t think there’s a new view on ATACMS at this point.”

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According to a senior HASC aide not authorized to speak on the record, the provision would require new ATACMS, not those from existing US stockpiles.

Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a fiscal 2020 ATACMS contract worth $426 million, according to the contractor’s website. Eight other countries have already received the missile: Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, TurkeyGreece, South Korea, Romania and Poland.

Australia, Estonia, Lithuania, Morocco and Taiwan have either ordered or have been approved to purchase ATACMS through foreign military sales within the past several years.

The ATACMS can be launched from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launcher, already in use in Ukraine, and from an M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

Bryant Harris is the congressional reporter for Defense News. He has covered foreign policy, national security, international affairs and US politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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