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Officials: Ukraine could get long-range missiles armed with US cluster bombs

WASHINGTON, September 12 ------ 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 155mm artillery rounds in recent months, the US is considering shipping either or both Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) that can fly up to 306km, or Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles with a 72km range packed with cluster bombs, three US officials said. If approved, either option would be available for rapid shipment to Kyiv.

Ukraine is currently equipped with 155mm artillery with a maximum range of 29km 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 White House declined to comment on the Reuters report. 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. ATACMS are designed for "deep attack of enemy second-echelon forces", a US Army website says, and could be used to attack command and control centres, air defences and logistics sites well behind the front line. Kyiv has repeatedly asked the Biden administration for ATACMS to help attack and disrupt supply lines, air bases, and rail networks in Russian occupied territory. Last week Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had discussed the US providing the long-range missiles and he hoped for a positive decision.



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