The Biden administration is close to approving the shipment of longer-range missiles packed with cluster bombs to Ukraine, giving Kyiv the ability to cause significant damage deeper within Russian-occupied territory, according to four US officials.
After seeing the success of cluster munitions delivered in 155 mm artillery rounds in recent months, the US is considering shipping either or both Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) that can fly up to 190 miles (306 km), or Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles with a 45-mile range packed with cluster bombs, three US officials said.
If approved, either option would be available for rapid shipment to Kyiv.
What lines of defense currently operate in Ukraine?
Ukraine is currently equipped with 155 millimeter artillery with a maximum range of 18 miles carrying up to 48 bomblets. The ATACMS under consideration would propel around 300 or more bomblets. The GMLRS rocket system, a version of which Ukraine has had in its arsenal for months, would be able to disperse up to 404 cluster munitions.
With Ukraine's push against Russian forces showing signs of progress, the administration is keen to boost the Ukrainian military at a vital moment, two of the sources said.
The decision to send ATACMS or GMLRS, or both, is not final and could still fall through, the four sources said. The Biden administration has for months struggled with a decision on ATACMS, fearing their shipment would be perceived as an overly aggressive move against Russia.