Can U.S. supplied HIMARS change the course of the Ukraine – Russia conflict in Donbas?

It is known that Washington has supplied Ukraine with launchers with a range of up to 80 km, but there is no evidence that ATACMS have been supplied yet.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India, portal publishing news and current affairs. He holds an M.B.A in International Business from the Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, USA. Twitter: @chackojoseph *views are Personal.

The United States believes that Ukraine is successfully using HIMARS to defend against Russia, and hopes that these artillery systems will turn the tide on the battlefield, says Ambassador Michael Carpenter, the head of the U.S. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission, during a meeting of the Permanent Council of the organization in Vienna.

He said these are high-precision artillery systems that Ukraine successfully uses to defend against an aggressor. “We, of course, we hope for that,” said the ambassador. The Minister of Defense of Ukraine has claimed that HIMARS is a “turning point on the battlefield”, he pointed out.

What is HIMARS

M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (M142 HIMARS MLRS) is a highly mobile artillery rocket system manufactured by the American company Lockheed Martin. HIMARS is a further development of the previous system, the M270 MLRS, which the United States began working on back in the 1970s, fearing an armed conflict involving Soviet troops in Europe. 

M270 – a universal launcher used as a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), is based on a tracked base. The system contained two standard transport and launch containers for six guided missiles each and six guides for firing them. The system was equipped with guided missiles with a range of up to 35 kilometres. In another version, it uses an ATACMS missile (Army TACtical Missile System, Army tactical missile system) capable of flying at a distance of about 170 kilometres at speeds up to 60 km / h.

HIMARS is based on the wheeled chassis of a 5-ton FMTV army truck with a crew of three. FMTV is a family of medium tactical vehicles manufactured by Oshkosh Corporation that perform various functions in the U.S. Army, including cargo transportation and long-haul transportation, and also serves as platforms for Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems.

HIMARS and M270 MLRS use the same missiles, but unlike its predecessor, HIMARS has one container for six missiles. At the same time, the wheeled chassis made it possible to significantly lighten the system and increase its mobility. HIMARS can be transported by American military transport aircraft C-130 Hercules. The wheel chassis also increased the maximum speed to 85 km / h, as well as to make long marches on public roads without the use of a tank carrier.

HIMARS is roughly equivalent to the Russian BM-27 Uragan, also deployed in Ukraine.

How does HIMARS help Ukrainian Forces?

The truck mounted HIMARS does not have the cross-country capability of a tracked vehicle, but is easier to maintain. This characteristic is likely to be critical for Ukrainians, who are overloaded with new and unfamiliar equipment. A tracked version, which the U.K. has already supplied to Ukraine, can overcome more difficult obstacles, but it is larger and heavier than HIMARS. HIMARS can be deployed, fired, moved and loaded in literally minutes, as per the manufacturer.

One of the main advantages of the HIMARS system is the speed of loading missiles into a container, which allows loading within five minutes without the participation of special loading machines using its own lifting mechanism.

It is known that Washington has supplied Ukraine with launchers with a range of up to 80 km, but there is no evidence that ATACMS have been supplied yet as the U.S. does not want Ukraine to hit targets inside Russia. Delivery of AFOM missiles would enable Ukraine to hit Belgorod, which is at a distance of 40 km from the Ukrainian border, Kursk and the Crimean bridge. Aleksey Arestovich, an advisor to President Zelensky’s office, has recently announced the possibility of receiving such missiles.

Before the delivery of HIMARS, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense for Political Affairs Colin Kohl said HIMARS shoots twice as far, which will allow the Ukrainians, even with a small number of systems, to increase resistance. HIMARS will help the destruction of high-value Russian targets that put pressure on Ukrainian troops at the front. 

Russia has already begun destroying HIMARS

On July 6, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the Russian Forces had destroyed two HIMARS MLRS systems with precision missiles in Donetsk.

A day or two later, the Russian MoD said that High-precision long-range sea-launched Kalibr missiles had destroyed ammunition depots for HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems and M777 howitzers supplied to Ukraine by the U.S. The depot was located near Radushnoye in Dnepropetrovsk Region.

On June 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Washington’s decision to supply Kyiv with HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems would fundamentally change nothing. “These multiple rocket launchers – they are in service with the Ukrainian army – are similar systems of Soviet, Russian production Grad, Smerch, Uragan,” said Putin.

Does HIMARS give Ukrainians an advantage?

The Ukrainian decisions on HIMARS usage will show the usefulness of the system in Donbas. The HIMARS poses a significant danger to the Russian offensive in the East at this juncture, but only time will tell if it will continue to do so.

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