US sends more HIMARS rocket trucks to Ukraine
- The United States has reserved another shipment of HIMARS rocket trucks to send to Ukraine.
- HIMARS, with their precision-guided rockets, proved spectacularly effective against Russian forces.
- Unfortunately, rocket-launching vehicles will probably not arrive until after the war is over, one way or another.
The Pentagon is expected to more than double Ukraine’s inventory of HIMARS rocket trucks under a new military aid program. The $1.1 billion package includes 18 HIMARS systems, which have wreaked havoc on Russian forces occupying Ukraine. There is a catch though: the rocket launchers are part of a future order and won’t reach the beleaguered country for some time.
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This new aid programannounced on September 28, also includes 150 Humvees, 150 tactical trucks for towing weapons, 22 radar systems, anti-drone weapons, communications equipment, explosive ordnance disposal equipment and body armor.
The package also includes “funding for training, maintenance and sustainment.” This likely applies not only to equipment in this round of aid, but also to previous rounds, especially those involved in the Ukrainian counter-offensives in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. Although vague, this is an important element that will increase over time as the Ukrainian stock of American equipment increases.
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The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is a rocket launcher mounted on a five-ton truck chassis. The rocket launcher can load up to six 227 millimeter (8.93 in diameter) GMLRS GPS-guided rockets. The GLMRS has a range of 43.94 miles and an average accuracy of 6.88 feet. Each rocket features a 200-pound high-explosive warhead surrounded by 160,000 pre-formed tungsten fragments. HIMARS/GMLRS is in service with the US Army and the US Marine Corps.
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The dynamic HIMARS/GMLRS duo is a major factor in the success of the Ukrainian double counter-offensives. HIMARS trucks used the country’s excellent road network to crawl near the border, unleash a hail of rockets on enemy targets, and then retreat inland. HIMARS targets have included ammunition dumps, supply dumps, concentrations of trucks and armored vehicles, air defense units, Russian army headquarters, etc.
HIMARS is particularly credited with slowly reducing the number of Russian artillery shells fired each day. At its peak, the Russian army and its proxy militias fired up to 60,000 shells a day. HIMARS strikes on ammunition dumps choked off the flow of artillery shells, resulting in fewer strikes. Other strikes have “gouged” Russia’s front line, preventing it from resupplying its forces with food, ammunition and fuel, while degrading their command and control with strikes against headquarters. The resulting casualties, low morale and paralysis were major factors in Russia’s struggle to stay on the battlefield.
The bad news: Unlike the HIMARS already sent to Ukraine, which came from existing US military stocks, the 18 HIMARS vehicles are ordered directly from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. “Procuring and delivering these HIMARS systems and associated munitions will take a few years,” a Pentagon official said last week. “Today’s announcement is just the start of a procurement process.” The 2022 Russian-Ukrainian war may well be over by then.
In other words, HIMARS are intended for the post-war Ukrainian army. It’s not great when needed right now, but there could be even more HIMARS transfers from Pentagon stocks in the future. In the meantime, look on the bright side: the Pentagon clearly thinks there will be a post-war Ukrainian military.
Writer on defense and security issues, lives in San Francisco.