Responding to Ukraine’s calls for more long-range precision weapons, the US last week said it would send more High Mobility Artillery Missile Systems (HIMARS) to Kiev as part of a new package weapons of 400 million dollars.
But can the new HIMARS turn the battle in Donbas in favor of Ukraine?
On Monday, July 11, a massive explosion rocked the Ukrainian town of Nova Kakhovka in the southern Kherson region, in what Ukrainian military officials said was an attack on a Russian ammunition depot, france24 writes.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak attributed the attack’s success to the use of the US-supplied HIMARS system. The Russian-installed administration, however, said the attack destroyed chemical warehouses.
“Our air defense easily copes with them”, “we have not started yet”, “it is a saltpeter warehouse”. RF propaganda generates new explanations for why #HIMARS destroy military depots network. Truth: all the pathos about greatness of the “second army” ends with a reality collision. pic.twitter.com/U6ckgSX29O
But as the war in Donbas continues, the Ukrainian military has used long-range precision artillery to considerable effect, underscoring the role HIMARS have played on the battlefield.
HIMARS, a missile easily mounted on a truck frame, is known for its range and accuracy while potentially being the solution to Russia’s relentless shelling campaign.
“This system will allow the Ukrainians to shoot at comfortable distances, accurately and knock out identified targets, as was the case in Kherson, where they attacked several weapons depots from a distance,” said General Dominique Trinquand, a former head of the French military mission to the UN.
Easier and faster to deploy than the older M270 multiple launch rocket system or MLRS, the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) can fire the same munitions as the M270 MLRS. Therefore, on the battlefield, HIMARS can complement the MLRS.
In terms of range, HIMARS can launch guided missiles (GMLRS) with a range of 15 to 84 kilometers.
The system can also launch other long-range munitions, such as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) that has a range of 165 kilometers and 300 kilometers for some versions.
According to the Financial Times, the Ukrainians asked Washington to provide longer-range ATACMS that could be used with HIMARS. But the request was rejected by the Americans.
“We don’t want to take steps that widen the conflict and so some of the guarantees we’ve asked for in the context of these particular systems are aware of that, to not want these systems to be used to attack Russian territory,” he told reporters. , Colin Kahl, US Under Secretary of Defense.
He added that the US discussed the types of munitions to be provided with Ukrainian officials, but it was determined that the 70km GMLRS “could serve exactly any target they needed”. The US, he said, would provide more munitions and HIMRAS systems as the fighting continued if the need arose.
“I think the Americans are concerned with the precise use of these weapons because they don’t want them to be used to attack targets deep in Russian territory, like Belgorod,” said Frank Ledwidge, a former British military intelligence officer and current lecturer. at the University of Portsmouth. “They are also concerned that these systems could fall into Russian hands because of their sensitivity,” he added.
HIMARS are developed for rapid deployment. The system features a pod to reduce its weight and is mounted on a truck instead of an armored and tracked vehicle to increase its speed. This makes the system capable of shooting and shooting easily.
Therefore, they can be deployed in a short period of time, fire accurate ammunition at its target, and quickly leave the area to avoid being hit by enemy fire.
HIMARS is designed to carry a small crew of three and reload in three to five minutes. Logistically, this makes them easy to transport.
‘God of war’
Moscow has long depended on mechanized artillery in conflict. During World War II, Joseph Stalin once said, “Artillery is the god of war.”
Mechanized artillery is fast, cheap, relatively low-tech, and maneuverable to avoid counter-artillery fire.
But apart from guided munitions, artillery is not an accurate weapon. Weather conditions, target movement, miscalculations by the crew can all affect accuracy, making the use of artillery a numbers game. The key to the game is a high rate of fire. Unguided munitions must be released in mass quantities to cover an entire area.
“The Russians are mass shooting to destroy as much as possible, while the Ukrainians have to strike precisely to avoid the destruction of their country,” Trinquand said.
The Russian military has consistently used its firepower to subdue any city before entering it. Experts believe the Russian military possesses a healthy stockpile of artillery shells and Moscow is able to produce low-tech, unguided munitions as all its components are available domestically, thus negating the effects of sanctions.
Logistics, Russia’s Achilles heel
However, Russia’s Achilles heel is its logistics chain. The country’s extensive railways are used to transport equipment needed by the military to the Ukrainian border. However, once they reached the border, the Russians did not possess enough trucks to transport their military equipment to the front lines.
Given the challenges of transportation, the security of weapons already transported and stored in warehouses behind the front line in Ukraine is critical for the Russians, the Telegraph reports.
HIMARS are critical because they can target Russian ammunition depots and logistics, preventing Russian artillery from supporting the Russian advance in the east.
“HIMARS is considered a deterrent weapon, it’s meant to stop supplies from reaching the front,” Ledwidge said. “12 ammunition depots have already been destroyed, any reasonable commander would transport the ammunition depots 80 kilometers from the front line, which would put limitations on the artillery, but the Russians’ lack of trucks, as well as slowness and inefficiency have stop them”, he pointed out. “In fact, these dumps are very easy to detect via drones or satellite because of their massive size,” he explained.
“The Russians will have to be careful about what they put near the front,” he added. “These systems came at a perfect time for the Ukrainians, as the Russians are regrouping to launch more attacks in Donbas.”
An ace up your sleeve or a trick
The inability of Russian air defenses to detect and intercept HIMARS projectiles, as well as the lack of Russian intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, namely drones, has been evident in the conflict in Ukraine.
“The Russian S400 air defense system was also advertised as an anti-missile system, but it has not been able to detect or stop HIMARS,” Ledwidge said.
However, the Russians are working on a solution. Iran is preparing to send drones to Russia, according to US officials, and Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Iran next week in an effort to boost bilateral relations.
If Russia gains ground due to drones, it will be able to destroy the limited number of systems deployed by the US and its allies in Ukraine.
“The lack of HIMARS systems means the Ukrainians will have to choose wisely where to put them as there aren’t enough to go around,” Trinquand explained.
The effectiveness of HIMARS in the upcoming battle for Donbass will be determined by the choices the Ukrainians make in using it and their ability to prevent the Russians from finding it.
At this point, HIMARS is a massive threat to the Russian advance in the East, but only time will tell if it will stay that way.
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