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Himars precision missiles are shifting the balance in Ukraine: experts

#Himars #precision #missiles #shifting #balance #Ukraine #experts

US-made precision missiles have given Ukraine’s forces a major boost on the battlefield since their introduction in June, tipping the balance against the Russians and potentially forcing Moscow to halt its offensive, experts said.

Since mid-June, Ukraine has used the Himar missile systems to destroy more than 20 major Russian ammunition depots and command posts that were previously too far behind the front lines for traditional artillery to reach.

Videos posted to social media showed spectacular, prolonged eruptions at munitions depots in Russian-controlled Lugansk, Nova Kakhovka and elsewhere, testament to the power and precision of US missiles.

“The occupiers have already felt very well what modern artillery is. They will not have a safe back anywhere on our country,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

But experts also warn that the new weapons are not a panacea and that the country needs more weapons and radar systems to use in combination to defeat the Russians.

Christopher Dougherty, a defense analyst at the Center for New American Security in Washington, said Himar’s success was as good as hoped.

Still, he said, “The thing in itself isn’t a game changer.”

– precision advantage –

The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is a maneuverable, wheel-mounted launcher for 227mm GPS-guided rockets with a range of approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles).

Unlike other multiple missile systems deployed by both sides in the war, Himars missiles can be aimed precisely at targets, meaning they can be used sparingly and reliably.

The first four launchers, each capable of carrying 6 missiles, were delivered in June; now the Ukrainians have 12, with hundreds of missiles to deploy.

They have more advantages than precision. The missiles fly low enough and fast enough that Russian air defenses cannot easily intercept them. Because the vehicles are so mobile, it is difficult for the Russians to find and attack them.

“Himars is changing the character of the struggle in Ukraine. It allows the Ukrainians to attack the Russians from a greater distance and in areas denied to them by Russian air defense systems,” Mick Ryan, a retired Australian general and military analyst, wrote on Twitter this week.

It’s not just Himars; Since June, Ukraine has had powerful high-precision artillery from other allies, such as the French Caesar howitzer, and last week the US announced it would deliver 1,000 new precision-guided artillery shells.

Ryan said Ukraine used them against Russian weaknesses: the tendency to stockpile ammunition near railroad depots and in cities relatively close to the front lines.

While this increases the risk for Ukrainians of hitting population centers, precise aiming helps reduce civilian casualties.

Dougherty said he was surprised the Russians had not planned the Himars.

“It’s not like a secret that these things would show up,” he said. “It’s another case where the Russians have really gotten used to what are, to be honest, pretty obvious problems on the battlefield.”

– Russian truck shortage –

Eventually, the Russians will adjust and distribute their supply depots, moving some much farther from the front lines, analysts said.

But that will make their battlefield logistics more difficult.

“Every time you give something out, it takes more trucks to get the same amount of stuff to the people who need it,” Dougherty said.

In addition, the Russian military’s fleet of trucks has shrunk considerably as a result of the war.

Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, said the Himars were not an end in themselves but part of a broader strategy to damage Russian logistics and roll back its air defenses.

This would leave front-line artillery, which is the mainstay of the Russian offensive, less protected from Ukrainian air and ground forces.

– Long-range missiles? –

Kyiv, meanwhile, is pushing Washington for ATACMS missiles, which can be launched from the Himars and have a range of 300 kilometers.

“Our authorities are negotiating at all levels with US officials on the need to provide us with longer-range Himars missiles,” Fedir Venislavskyi, a senior Ukrainian lawmaker, said on Wednesday.

So far, the White House has refused over concerns that such weapons could be used by Ukraine against targets on Russian territory.

That, President Joe Biden’s administration fears, risks drawing the US and NATO headlong into a war with Russia.

Dougherty said the US really doesn’t stock many ATACMS and production stopped years ago.

O’Brien said Ukraine really needs more protection from Russian airstrikes alongside the Himars.

“Providing Ukraine with more and better anti-aircraft capabilities should be a priority as well as providing it with better-ranged weapons,” O’Brien wrote on Twitter.

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