Artillery: HIMARS Prevails Against Russians


April 6, 2024: As effective as HIMARS missile launchers have been against Russian forces in Ukraine, the Russians have adapted. Russian efforts to jam the HIMARS guidance system were not effective enough to prevent HIMARS missiles from hitting those targets. It sometimes required two or three missiles to destroy a target that formerly could have been destroyed with one missile. The Americans not only supplied the Ukrainians with HIMARS systems and thousands of additional missiles, but also provided space-based aerial photos of Russian targets and their location coordinates. The Russian response was to move all their supply distribution centers beyond the 80 kilometer range of HIMARS. This meant more use of trucks to supply front line troops. The trucks could also be hit with missiles, that was a very expensive way to destroy a truck. The Russian trucks maintained a large distance between them on the road, so one missile could not destroy more than one truck. The Russians were willing to cope with delays in getting supplies to the troops in order to overcome the HIMARS missile threat. The Ukrainian responded by using the missiles against less valuable targets like artillery and rocket launchers as well as concentrations of troops and armored vehicles preparing for an attack. Artillery fire, which has a max range of 30 kilometers, was a valuable Russian asset because the Russians had about five times more artillery ammunition than the Ukrainians. The Russians were doing most of the attacking and willing to accept the troop losses from Ukrainian artillery and HIMARS missiles. Russia was able to reduce the effectiveness of HIMARS but not render it useless. The Russians knew the Ukrainians were dependent on the United States for additional supplies of HIMARS missiles and those supplies were limited because it took time to establish more production capacity. By early 2024 40,000 HIMARS missiles had been produced and so far, Ukraine has used about 10,000 of them against a very active and resourceful enemy. Moreover there were longer, 150 kilometer, range HIMARS rockets on the way. These longer range missiles were created by modifying existing missiles and upgrading the fire control system in each HIMARS vehicle. Another longer range, and larger missile is arriving in 2024. These are the PrSM Precision Strike Missile. A HIMARS Launcher can carry and launch two PrSM missiles. The Maximum range of PrSM is about 500 kilometers and that will cause major problems for the Russians.

HIMARS entered service in 2010 and small numbers have been used in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. In these countries the opposition was low tech and unable to do much to avoid or resist these missile attacks. The Russians were a high-tech opponent that was able to cause problems for HIMARS. They forced the Americans and Ukrainians to adapt, which was done.

The Russians adapted as best they could to HIMARS and also attempted to destroy the Ukrainian HIMARS launchers. This proved to be very difficult, and it wasn’t until early 2024 that the Russians managed to locate one using a swarm of surveillance and armed attack UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and destroy it before the crew could get the vehicle into a forested area. Two other HIMARS vehicles were damaged by Russian attacks and shipped back to the United States for repairs and upgrades.

Ukraine makes it even more difficult for the Russians to destroy HIMARS vehicles by building decoy replicas of HIMARS missile launchers. So far over 40,000 GMLRS rockets have been produced and that is increasing because of use in Ukraine and more export orders. Another advantage of GMLRS is that the extended range (150 kilometers) GMLRS ER will soon enter mass production. This version uses the same HIMARS vehicle launcher and has the same success rate of 98 percent. Accuracy of GMLRS is high, with the guided rocket landing within one meter of the aiming point.

Russia has been the primary target of GMLRS attacks and has developed tactics, techniques, and special electronic equipment to intercept or degrade the accuracy of GMLRS. Russia has used S-300 and S-400 air defense systems to intercept GMLRS. This means expending a lot of S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, which cost a lot more than a GMLRS. Russia has also developed an electronic jammer which degrades but does not eliminate GMLRS accuracy. GMLRS rockets have inflicted major damage on Russian forces in Ukraine and continue to do so.

Ukraine later admitted that they build many other types of decoys for prime targets like HIMARS missile launchers, several models of artillery howitzers and mobile radar air search radars and electronic warfare equipment.




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