US to send more HIMARS advanced rocket systems to Ukraine

Advanced artillery rocket system is part of new $400m US weapons package to Ukraine, senior US defence official says.

A view shows a HIMARS being fired in an undisclosed location in Ukraine
A view shows an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) being fired in an undisclosed location in Ukraine [File: Pavlo Narozhnyy via Reuters]

The United States will send more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine as part of a new $400m weapons package, a senior defence official has said, to help Kyiv confront heavy Russian artillery bombardments.

Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity on Friday, the official said the new US arms package would include four additional HIMARS and more ammunition, bringing the total number of these systems to 12.

With the HIMARS, “Ukraine has now been successfully striking Russian locations within Ukraine, deeper behind the front lines, and disrupting Russia’s ability to conduct artillery operation”, the official said.

The package will also include 1,000 rounds of a new kind of 155mm ammunition for artillery supplied by Ukraine’s Western allies.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.

The aid came as Moscow this week claimed full control of Ukraine’s southeastern Luhansk region, but Ukrainian officials say their troops still control a small part of the area and fierce fighting continues in several villages.

It is the 15th package of US military weapons and equipment transferred to Ukraine from Department of Defense stocks since last August.

In addition to the HIMARS, Washington will also send 1,000 rounds of 155mm artillery, which has an increased precision capability that also will help Ukraine hit specific targets. The package also will include three tactical vehicles, counter-battery radar systems, spare parts and other equipment.

The official added that all the HIMARS provided to Ukraine were accounted for after Russia’s defence ministry earlier this week said it had destroyed two HIMARS and their ammunition depots in eastern Ukraine.

The US started providing the key precision rocket weapon system to Ukraine last month after receiving assurances from Kyiv that it would not use them to hit targets inside Russian territory.

Ukraine has not used HIMARS systems to attack outside of Ukraine, the official added on Friday.

The M142 HIMARS is a high-tech lightweight rocket launcher that can hit targets at a range of 80km (50 miles). This is almost double the range of the current M777 howitzers, which the US promised to provide earlier in the conflict.

Ukraine already has multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) capabilities, but the HIMARS is a modernised system.

Ukraine has repeatedly called on its Western allies to provide heavy weaponry to help its forces stave off Russia’s continued offensive, which began in February.

When the fighting was in or near urban areas in the first weeks of the war, the Ukrainians in many places were able to hold the Russians at bay. When the Russians began focusing on Luhansk and Donetsk, their long-range artillery gave them an advantage Ukrainian forces have not been able to match.

“With a sufficient number of howitzers, SPG and HIMARS, our soldiers are able to stop and drive the invaders from our land. Got to break RF’s scorched earth tactics,” the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, Andriy Yermark, said on Twitter on Friday.

“We need air and missile defenses to save thousands of lives.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies