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Why US-supplied rocket system HIMARS has become key to Ukraine’s defence against Russia

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, HIMARS are medium-range systems that allow launch of multiple-precision-guided rockets. US sent first tranche to Ukraine at end of June.

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New Delhi: Last week, Ukrainian forces blew up a Russian arms depot in the city of Nova Kakhovka, in Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast. Reports said that High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) were “fired from tubes rigged up to the back of a US-provided truck” onto the arms depot in Kherson. The HIMARS strike led to multiple explosions before the depot went up in flames.

For many months after the war began, Ukraine had consistently requested the US and other western countries to supply them HIMARS. After weeks of deliberation, the US had finally sent in the first tranche of HIMARS at the end of June.

Soon after, Ukraine’s Minister of Defence, Oleksii Reznikov, said, “Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them”.

Since then, the US has sent in eight HIMARS, with the promise of sending in four more. Such has been the significant impact of these satellite-guided rockets that Ukraine has reportedly knocked out 12 Russian arms depots since June end. According to The New York Times, even Russians have “grudgingly acknowledged their power and accuracy.”

The HIMARS are now central to Ukraine’s defence, especially as stocks of Soviet-era armaments dwindle. ThePrint explains what HIMARS are.

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What are HIMARS

HIMARS are medium-range rocket systems that allow the launch of multiple-precision-guided rockets. They are manufactured by the US defence conglomerate Lockheed Martin. While the HIMARS look similar to Soviet-era rocket launchers, they are far more accurate and must be used more conservatively to save ammunition.

According to Lockheed Martin, the HIMARS are equipped to launch all forms of MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) munitions. The US has sent Ukraine the M142 HIMARS system. The M142 HIMARS systems are wheel mounted and usually placed atop truck frames. Each HIMARS is equipped with six-227mm GPS-guided missiles, and each missile has a range of 84 kilometres.

The M142s are more modern, lighter, and more transportable versions of the M270 MLRS developed in the 1970s in the US.

The typical M142 HIMARS system is 7 metres in length, 2.4 metres wide, and 3 metres in height.

The HIMARS require a small crew to operate and maintain the system. In a few minutes, the crew can remove and replace a used missile with a new one.

Advantages of HIMARS & how Ukraine has used them

The biggest advantage of the HIMARS over other forms of artillery is its range. This allows the Ukrainian army to use the HIMARS from distant locations, enabling them to not be susceptible to Russian counterattacks.

Further, Ukraine has deftly used the 80 km range of the HIMARS to their advantage in terms of target picking. They have systematically and strategically hit Russian supply lines, command posts, ammunition and logistic warehouses to limit and constrict Russia’s campaign in eastern Ukraine.

Given the need to judiciously use the HIMARS — a result of limited ammunition supply — Ukrainian soldiers have been “firing one or two guided rockets at ammunition depots or command posts, often at night, and keeping them well away from the front lines to protect them”, The New York Times quoted Pentagon officials and military analysts as saying.

The Pentagon has declared that HIMARS are having a “significant impact” on the conflict in Ukraine.

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