ATACMS now in use by Ukraine

Debris from the booster section of an M39 (ATACMS Block I) missile with inertial guidance version. The booster is intact so it appears that the Pantsir AA system at Berdyansk Airfield didn’t intercept this 30+ year old missile.

Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Operation “DRAGONFLY”. Successful operation of the SSO of Ukraine to attack airfields in Berdyansk and Luhansk

The special operations forces received information about the enemy’s use of the airfields in the temporarily occupied Berdyansk and Luhansk, as well as the presence of a significant amount of aviation and special equipment and ammunition.

The specified information has been verified and confirmed. The coordinates and the necessary data have been transferred to the units of the Defense Forces. As a result of the fire strike on the night of October 16-17, the occupiers suffered significant losses.

According to the latest data, the following were destroyed in Berdyansk and Luhansk:

✔️nine helicopters of various modifications

✔️ special equipment that was located at airfields

✔️ anti-aircraft missile launcher

✔️ ammunition warehouse

✔️ airfield runways were damaged

The ammunition depot in Berdyansk detonated before 4 am. The detonation in Luhansk lasted until 11 am.

Losses in the enemy’s manpower amount to dozens of dead and wounded. Bodies are still being pulled from the rubble.


Comment: This how the Ukrainian SSO announced last night’s ATACMS strikes on Russian airfields at Berdyansk and Luhansk. The debris at Berdyansk indicates it was the MGM-140A ATACMS Block I, M39 with M74 submunitions manufactured in October 1996. They’re old, but perfect for airfields and ammo dumps. Biden approved their transfer three weeks ago. It appears the Russians were still surprised. I’ve seen videos and photos from Berdyansk, but nothing from Luhansk yet. I also found this rather down in the mouth report from the Russian Fighterbomber Telegram channel

It’s not a good morning. Last night, the hohos attacked with ATACMS missiles our airfield where the Army Aviation was based. One of the most serious strikes of all time in the SMO. If not the most serious. There are losses in both people and equipment. It’s pointless to write about the fact that “we need to draw conclusions so that this doesn’t happen again. This will happen again as long as the war continues. We must be prepared for this.

The SSO announcement indicated serious preparation for the ATACMS debut. Certainly they had access to satellite and reconnaissance aircraft data. Given that it’s the SSO making the announcement, I would assume that resistance and special operations teams are also on target providing targeting and BDA intelligence, probably in real time.

We planned similar operations behind Soviet lines many, many years ago. Only our operations were not done in real time. We called it offset targeting. We carried fairly small beacon devices, only a couple of pounds, that we emplaced several kilometers from the target.  Then we would transmit the azimuth and distance from the beacon to the target back to the SFOB through our laborious short wave communications procedures. We had to encrypt the targeting data with one time pads and punch the encrypted message into a metallic tape device that dated back to the OSS days of WWII. We then sighted and erected an antenna, sent the message by spring loaded burst device, pulled down the antenna and hauled ass out of the AO. Then we would wait for the B-52s or whatever to hit the target based on our offset targeting data. I’m sure the procedures have improved greatly since then.


This entry was posted in The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to ATACMS now in use by Ukraine

  1. F&L says:

    A short indication of their explosive power – something to compare it to? Thx.

    Biden is in Israel on Oct 18. The security for that must be an actual military operation by the US one would think.

    The State Department and all US media was ordered to desist from use of any language regarding de escalation in a secret memo and then leaked the memo. OK. Donald Duck opened a restaurant which serves only ducks. Believe it?

    • F&L says:

      PS: TTG, jokes aside, seriously – in your O’Pinion do you consider it more realistic to say that Hamas now has over 600 American hostages rather than the much smaller two digit number reported?
      I’m thinking of the 3 digit number 444. I bet you remember that. But the number of hostages then was 52, one for every week of a normal year.
      Why won’t Smokin’ Joe Biden’s presidency go the route of Jimmy Carter’s. Possibly answer – the Republicans have no one. But they aleady won Louisiana’s Governor’s race.

  2. F&L says:

    Putin was greeted at the Beijing Duck airport by the minister of foreign trade. I must have been thinking of Peking. Said the Israeli Gaza border guard standing by the fence on Oct 7 as he watched his commander run wearing only his underwear as his kidnappers shot the rest of the garrison dead in their barracks.
    TTG – while you were practicing with your Flintstone era ATACMs, were you let in on the secrets of sedating soldiers and security or do you think it’s a bug that travels between the Gaza Strip and Russian airfields in Ukraine? Will my trusty old hound dog be affected?
    Telegram channel. They sound like they sleep very soundly. 2 fighter jets and 3 helicopters.
    During the night we lost 2 planes and 3 helicopters. Who will answer?
    Last night, the enemy attacked air bases near Berdyansk and Lugansk. Our aviation suffered very serious losses. According to sources, two Su-35 aircraft were seriously damaged. Three helicopters were also completely destroyed; their models are being determined.
    It is worth noting important points – Ukraine is also preparing for the winter round of this war and, understanding the threat of attacks on infrastructure, is trying to destroy missile launch vehicles. In particular, damaged Su-35s were used for attacks with Kh-59 cruise missiles. Yes, of course, this is not strategic aviation, but it is unlikely that it will be possible to quickly replenish the aircraft fleet. Now the damage to the aircraft is being studied to determine the possibility of repairing these aircraft.
    The second question is who gave the order to leave the planes in such close proximity to the enemy? Each order has the name of the person who gave it. He must be held accountable.
    Now there is information in public pages that Ukraine has used ATACMS, but we have not yet confirmed this data. Preliminarily, we are talking about modernized missiles of the S-200 complex. In Berdyansk, the attack also hit the ammunition storage area. They still cannot count the number of victims. But there is a guideline of 20 dead and about a dozen wounded. The information is being clarified.

  3. Christian J Chuba says:

    It’s a good weapon. It requires less precision than something with a single warhead. A thousand small holes are harder to repair than just writing off one item from a single blast. The only downside I see is that it has a ballistic trajectory. This will make it easier for Russian AD to track, as opposed to drones and cruise missiles. Russia will figure out how to intercept all of these missiles.

    • TTG says:

      Christian J Chuba,

      It’s decades old technology and even older flight characteristics. The Russians should already be fully prepared to defeat them. They’re either lacking qualified air defenders or their technology is suffering from wear and tear or lack of critical parts. Or they’re all drunk.

      • Jake says:

        Apparently, the choice to send these order versions was based on the fact that they don’t use GPS signals, but inertia platforms. The inertia platforms are contained units that cannot be jammed, or taken over by electronic countermeasures.
        An analogy would be the introduction of the ancient Douglas Skyraider in Vietnam, because the jets were too fast and vulnerable.
        No doubt there will be a solution in the not to distant future. But for now these ‘Stone Age’ weapon systems are posing problems. These lost helicopters will be resupplied in no time at all, but these long range missiles the US supplied may hamper their operational use for the time being. Alternatives to using these helicopters would be the use of ‘carpet bombing’ entire areas, instead of trying to target individual objects if the Ukrainian air defense systems are sufficiently depleted. And Russia could opt to take out the NATO reconnaissance platforms used, those ‘reaper drones’, if the get this feeling that war with NATO can no longer be avoided, since NATO keeps escalating. Given the present situation in the Middle East, NATO would be left with serious headache, since it is doubtful that they will be able to handle two wars, despite assurances by Biden, who looked like he was somewhere in outer space as he spoke to CNN on board Air force One, after his useless trip to the Middle East, because nobody cared to see him.

        These are dangerous times, because responsible people insist to make irresponsible choices, thinking they are more powerful than the Roman Emperors of yore. Biden assuring us that the US is the most powerful country on the planet didn’t strike me as if he followed the news lately.

  4. babelthuap says:

    Ukraine is getting some good body shots. Unfortunately the cluster bombs and Attackoms or whatever it is will run out. US military industrial complex does not make cheap weapons. Need cheap to win and the profit margin is too small with shells and crappy drones. Everyone on here knows this reality. Gonna need lots of bodies and lots of dirt pennies on the dollar munitions. The US does not do this. No money in it. Might as well open a dollar store in MS. Not getting rich off this nonsense.

    The war is over. Russia won. Accept it now or later. Does not matter. Nobody in the US is making dirt cheap weapons to actually win a war. Not what we do.

    • wiz says:


      Those helicopters and aircraft that were destroyed are not cheap either, nor are they easy to replace. A bunch of soldiers died as well, but I guess they are easily replaced.

      It was known for some months that Berdyansk AB is a prime candidate for ATACMS attack. Moreover it is pretty well known that when the US announces the approval of some new military tech for Ukraine, it usually means that the gear has already been delivered and the Ukrainians trained to use it.

      Despite all this, the Russians still managed to get caught with their pants down. That is a strange way of winning.

  5. leith says:

    What, no M48 with 500 pound unitary warhead for use on Putin’s folly AKA the soon to be bridge to nowhere? Maybe in the future. Or maybe they already have one and are saving for when the current bridge repairs are finished. I’ve read that some weapons experts say the Swedish-German made Taurus cruise missile might be a better bridge buster due to its unique fuse. Although AFAIK it has not yet been provided to Ukraine.

    • alexandar says:

      You can destroy the Kerch Bridge as many times as you like.
      It’s not a military asset.
      And the Russians will rebuild it every time, again and again.

      Obviously you don’t know anything about the Russian mindset.

      • TTG says:


        That bridge is a critical supply line for the Russian military. It is a legitimate and important military target. But you’re right about the Russians’ determination to keep rebuilding it. As long as they control the Strait, they must.

        • Peter Hug says:

          Rebuilding it will work until the main span with the arches gets dumped into the navigation channel, I think. That would necessitate a fair bit of fixing.

      • leith says:

        Alexandar –

        Just last week repairs were still going on to fix the damage from the July strike. Repairing bridge roadbed damage can be done fairly simply in days or weeks. Or months if a span is dropped, it took five months to repair the damage from the October 2022 attack. But if they take out a pillar, then you might be seeing a year-long or multi-year reconstruction effort. Mindset has nothing to do with it.

        • leith says:

          PS – Yes Alex, Kerch Bridge is a military asset. It’s a major LOC on which millions of tons per year of ammo and other logistics can be sent to Putin’s occupying troops in the Southern Front.

          Logistics is key to war. That is said by Sun Tzu, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Wellington, Marshall Foch, Ike, Admiral King, Omar Bradley, & General Barrow, and hundreds of others.
          “Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have beans, bandages and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics.”

  6. elkern says:

    I assume that we (USA) are providing target coordinates from satellite data?

    If so, it increases our responsibility for whatever damage it does. The upside is that it might give us the ability to prevent them from being used to attack [pre-2014] Russian territory, which would be a kind of red-line that we might want to avoid crossing?

    • TTG says:


      I think that’s our policy. We don’t want to see our weapons used to strike Russia proper. Kind of a silly stance in my opinion. Russia has been striking Ukraine proper for 20 months.

  7. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Something all the war-lovers should consider, and take seriously:

    Yes, Russia has not thus far escalated to nuclear war.
    But with the escalation of hostilities between the Muslim world and the U.S./Israel/West alliance, Russia can definitely support the Muslim side,
    just as the U.S. supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan.
    (It seems to me civilian airlines, among other things, are at risk.)

    The U.S. seems bound and determined to push Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and other Muslims into an anti-U.S. alliance.
    Incredibly dumb.
    And harmful to the U.S.

  8. John Minehan says:

    The Ukrainians did not have to break through the Russian Lines; they had to get enough land to get within ATMS range of the Bridges.

    Also, this ended the moment the Black Sea Fleet became a target.

Comments are closed.