The US-built high-mobility artillery rocket system was first supplied to Ukrainian forces in June and has been credited with halting Russia’s advance after its February 24 invasion. Earlier this week, Ivan Federov, mayor-in-exile of the southern city of Melitopol, claimed via Telegram that more than 100 Russian soldiers had been killed in recent days by the weapon.
He then added: “Last week, the occupiers redeployed a significant part of the air defense from Melitopol to Kherson.
Tonight is the most effective and shows that existing enemy air defense units are no longer able to withstand HIMARS.
Sunil Nair, an analyst with defense intelligence firm Janes, undertook a detailed analysis in which he outlined four “essential elements” a weapons system needs to be “effective in conventional peer-to-peer conflict. or nearly even” – with HIMARS ticking the boxes in each case.
- Mobility: Light, self-propelled, good transportability – the launcher element of the artillery system needs good shooting and scooter capability
- Firepower: Accuracy, range and mass fire capability. It depends on throwing/firing units, rounds and numbers in which both are available
- Connected technology: Basically, the fire control system (FCS) and independent operability. This includes C4ISR architecture, Artillery Command and Control System (ACCS), target data sources, flow and fire data computation capability
- Crew training: Artillery fire is complex. A well-trained crew is essential both at the level of fire and at the level of coordination (direction) of fire.
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Mr. Nair described the M142 HIMARS as a lighter version of the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), carrying a six-rocket pod instead of the M270’s two.
Being a lighter wheeled system, it has a greater carrying capacity and has “good shooting and scootering ability”, in other words, it can be pulled independently and then moved out of the shooting position to avoid counter-battery fire.
Mr. Nair added: “It has now been two months since the first four HIMARS were introduced in Ukraine. With additions in increments of four, there are now 16 launchers and approximately 200 Ukrainian gunners trained on these systems.
The United States has provided M31A1 GMLRS rounds for the HIMARS which can hit targets at a distance of 70 km, although there is no information on the numbers, Nair said.
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“HIMARS have certainly proven their potential as a powerful force multiplier for existing Ukrainian artillery, as well as other recently received Western kits – towed and self-propelled howitzers.
“It is the accuracy factor with the M31A1 rounds that gives Ukraine a significant new artillery capability over its Soviet-era MRLs. However, for range, the M31 GMLRS round fired from the HIMARS n does not offer a capacity considerably greater than that of the BM-27 Uragans or the BM-30 Smerch.
“Therefore, while massive artillery fire will come from these new artillery systems and others, the M142 HIMARS will be useful in counter-battery, hitting high-value targets at depth and eventually in suppressing Russian Air Defense Assets (SEAD).”
Mr Nair warned: “The only factor Ukrainians will be aware of is the ‘burn rate’.
“The limitation of the ‘HIMARS effect’ is more the availability of rockets than launchers.
“While 16 launchers were supplied, Ukraine requested 100 more.”
There was no credible information on the number of rockets launched by Ukraine from HIMARS, he stressed.
Mr Nair continued: “Now the United States may not be the only supplier of GMLRS rockets, but the question is how much a country will be willing to withdraw from its stockpile, so as not to affect the preparation of his army.”
As for the impact the system has had on the course of the conflict, he said: “It is always complex to measure the impact of a single technology on the battlefield and currently it may seem that HIMARS is replacing the Bayraktar TB2, which seemed so devastating at the start of the conflict.
“Just like how the Russians developed a series of countermeasures, including (electronic warfare techniques) that disrupted Ukrainian command and control, against the Bayraktar TB2 and other drones, there are chances are the same will happen to the HIMARS.
“Thus, with the HIMARS, Ukraine has a weapon system that can provide ranged attacks with deep sniping capability and provides an opportunity to degrade Russia’s physical, intellectual and moral capabilities. .
“However, Russia’s mass fire capability which is an important element in its attrition strategy, the rate at which it develops adequate countermeasures to neutralize/reduce the HIMARS threat and the availability of M31 or other rockets of 227 mm in sufficient numbers for the Ukrainians, will determine the effectiveness of HIMARS in the medium and long term.