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Cluster Munitions for Ukraine: Did Joe Biden Just Seal Putin’s Fate?

The Pentagon announced another package of military aid to Ukraine worth $800 million that includes dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) or cluster munitions. 

NATO M270 MLRS. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
NATO M270 MLRS. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

After months of requests, Ukraine is finally getting cluster munitions. 

On Friday, the Pentagon announced another package of military aid to Ukraine worth $800 million that includes dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) or cluster munitions. 

Although controversial because of the high risk of collateral damage, cluster munitions are exactly what Ukraine needs to break through the extensive Russian defenses. 

Cluster Munitions for Ukraine 

The U.S. is sending an unspecified number of 155mm cluster munitions to Ukraine as well as 31 M-777 155mm howitzers.

What makes cluster munitions so effective on the ground is their kill radius. Each shell is packed with smaller bomblets that have a much larger kill radius than a standard shell. 

Produced between the 1970s and 1990s, cluster munitions come in all shapes and sizes, including 105mm, 155mm, and 203mm diameters, all of which are in service with the Ukrainian military. There are also cluster munitions for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). 

Right now, the Russian forces are relying on an extensive defensive network full of minefields, anti-tank ditches, trenches, and fortified fighting positions to stall the Ukrainian counteroffensive. And they have been quite effective, allowing the attacking Ukrainians to liberate only a limited amount of territory. In this standoff, cluster munitions could be the solution to the Ukrainian problem as they can better penetrate trench systems and take out the forces in them. As a whole, the Russians have much better trench systems than the Ukrainians, with mutually supporting positions and bunkers. 

The cluster munitions that the U.S. is sending to Kyiv will help the Ukrainian military pierce gaps in the Russian defensive networks that can be later exploited by mechanized forces. 

The conflict in Ukraine is very much a war of artillery. With neither side having air superiority, long-range fires are the only reliable way for the two militaries to strike the other’s rear. 

Buying Time 

Another reason why the U.S. is sending cluster munitions to Ukraine now is that the Pentagon is running low on munitions. With munition production (especially of 155mm shells) falling short of current demand, the White House decided to open up its cluster munitions stocks and buy some time for the industry to catch up. 

“We need to build a bridge from where we are today to when we have enough monthly production of unitary rounds,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday. 

“This is the moment to begin the construction of that bridge so that there isn’t any period over this summer or heading into this fall when Ukraine is short on artillery,” Biden’s top national security counselor added. 

“This package will provide Ukraine with additional artillery systems and ammunition, including highly effective and reliable dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM), on which the Administration conducted extensive consultations with Congress and our Allies and partners,” the Pentagon announced in a press release.

This is the 42nd package of security aid that the U.S. is sending Ukraine. Since the start of the war, the U.S. has committed approximately $41.5 billion, making it by far the biggest supporter of Ukraine.

A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

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1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.