Over the past few weeks, the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) has been slowly but steadily tipping the scale in favor of Ukraine. And as Kyiv is poised to receive more HIMARS, the fate of the Russian invasion in Ukraine is becoming all but certain.
HIMARS in Ukraine: It’s raining death
The M142 HIMARS needs only three men (driver, gunner, and section chief). It can fire its payload of six missiles against targets located up to 43 miles away, depending on the munition. What makes the HIMARS that much better is its ability to avoid counter-artillery fire. The HIMARS can fire each arsenal and be on the road in minutes, leaving little time for the enemy to respond.
The Ukrainian military has put the HIMARS to good use. Ukrainian forces are systematically selecting targets and then accurately hitting them, thereby slowly degrading the Russian military capabilities and supply lines with the least amount of collateral damage possible.
The Ukrainians are lobbing highly lethal missiles into their own country, targeting ammunition depots, supply routes, and other military targets that are often adjacent to schools and buildings. However, despite the proximity to civilian targets, the Ukrainians have pulled it off without any major collateral damage, a testament to their targeting intelligence but also to the accuracy of the HIMARS.
Ukraine’s military leadership spoke about the effectiveness of the HIMARS, stating that the long-range fires weapon system has been crucial in the Ukrainian military’s defense. The HIMARS, the Ukrainian officer said, has helped stabilize the frontline in the Donbas and halt any Russian advances.
What the HIMARS has been doing in Ukraine isn’t focusing on frontline Russian units. Instead, the Ukrainians have been shrewdly using the long-range artillery weapon system to target the ammunition and logistical depots of the Russian military.
Thus far, in only a few weeks of operation, the Ukrainians have used the HIMARS to destroy more than 30 such ammunition and logistical depots spread around occupied Ukraine, including the pro-Russian enclaves in the Donetsk and Luhansk territories. As a result, Russian frontline units are starting to lack basic necessities and ammunition, and Russian artillery pieces, which would mindlessly fire 20,000 shells a day, now have to be more careful with their fire missions.
“[HIMARS] has just recently been introduced, so the Ukrainians are still very much in the early days of operating this system, but what I can tell you is because it is such a precise, longer range system, the Ukrainians are able to carefully select targets that will undermine, you know, the effort by Russia in a more systematic way, certainly more than they would be able to do with the shorter range artillery systems,” a U.S. defense official said recently.
And more are on the way
On Tuesday, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby revealed in a press briefing that the U.S. military would be sending additional HIMARS to Ukraine as part of another Presidential Drawdown package (the 16th thus far).
“Later this week, the administration will announce the next Presidential Drawdown package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine. It’ll be the 16th such drawdown to support Ukraine since the President took office,” Kirby said.
“That package will include more HIMARS — that’s Highly Mobile [Artillery] Rocket Systems — which the Ukrainians have been using very effectively to make a difference on the battlefield. And it’ll also include some additional rounds of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and artillery ammunition,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications added.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that the Pentagon would be sending four more HIMARS to Ukraine; this will bring the total number of Ukrainian HIMARS to 16.
When it came to the HIMARS, the U.S. followed the same approach it had done since the start of the invasion. For advanced weapon systems in which the Ukrainians have no background or expertise in, the Pentagon would initially commit only a very small number — for example, the first package of HIMARS included just four weapon systems. This was done mainly for two reasons: First, to allow the Ukrainian military to incorporate the weapon system without getting swamped by big numbers of new materiel; and second, to determine how well the Ukrainians adapted to the weapon system and put it into effective use.
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