HIMARS, a US-made missile system, helped give Ukraine a boost
Since the first weeks of the war, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has begged any government to listen that his country has been overwhelmed by the Russian military. Ukraine needs longer-range weapons if it wants to survive, he said.
In response to that call in June, Washington delivered the first batch of truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers called HIMARS, which fire satellite-guided missiles with a range of about 50 miles, greater than any other something that Ukraine had previously owned.
Since then, these weapons have helped Ukraine move the momentum of the war.
On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said 63 servicemen were killed on New Year’s Day in an attack on a building in Donetsk province that officials on both sides said was carried out using the HIMARS system. . The Ukrainian military estimated hundreds of people were killed in the attack.
The HIMARS system – an acronym for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – is most effective when deployed against fixed and precisely defined targets, such as ammunition dumps , infrastructure or troop concentrations. To date, the US has supplied Ukraine with at least 20 HIMARS systems manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
Ukrainian forces began deploying missile launchers last summer as part of a counter-offensive aimed at retaking land in the southern Kherson region.
Starting in late July, Ukraine used artillery rocket systems to attack the Antonivsky Bridge, cutting off a vital supply route for thousands of Ukrainian troops stationed in the city of Kherson on the west bank of the Dnipro River. In the end, the Kremlin ordered its forces to withdraw from the city.
Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at St. Scotland, in an analysis of the war posted on Substack.
Western military analysts say Monday’s attack reflects a change in tactics. Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va., said Ukrainian commanders have used the missile primarily to attack ammunition dumps and supply lines, but more recently they have targeted more barracks and other troop concentration points.
“The influx of people mobilized on the front lines has clearly made them vulnerable to attack,” he said.
Mr. Kofman said that the recent HIMARS attacks had less overall impact in the war than when they were first launched in the summer and reduced Russia’s advantage in artillery.
So far, rocket launches have not resulted in major changes to the front line in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where Monday’s deadly attack on a school used barracks. Russia has controlled much of the territory since 2014 and has substantial defenses.
But rocket launchers were used to attack other troop concentrations in the east. Russia’s state news agency, Tass, said in December that HIMARS had attacked a hotel in Luhansk province. Ukrainian authorities say the hotel is the base of Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group, which played a key role in Moscow’s campaign in Donbas.
Mr. O’Brien argues that weapons like the HIMARS will most likely be crucial as the war enters its second year.
“The first step on any path to Ukraine’s victory will be the continuation of this period of great waste,” he wrote, adding that Ukraine “will rely primarily on long-range weapons.” to methodically destroy the Russian forces confronting them.”