Defense with limitations: HIMARS - modern rocket launchers for Ukraine

With the modern US multiple rocket launcher system HIMARS, the Ukraine should oppose the Russian army with more resistance and energetically stop the advance.

Defense with limitations: HIMARS - modern rocket launchers for Ukraine

With the modern US multiple rocket launcher system HIMARS, the Ukraine should oppose the Russian army with more resistance and energetically stop the advance. But the system can actually do more than the USA wants to allow in the end.

As part of a new security pact, the United States is now supplying Ukraine with modern multiple rocket launchers for defense in the fight against Russia. The White House had previously obtained assurances from Ukraine that the weapon systems would not attack any targets on Russian territory.

The fear is obvious, because both US-made artillery systems HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) and the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) are capable of short-range ballistic missiles of the type MGM-140B ATACMS Block 1 (M39A) with a range of up to 300 kilometers to fire.

Development of the MGM-140 ATACMS began as early as 1982, with the first missiles being delivered to the US Armed Forces in June 1990. The idea of ​​this surface-to-surface missile is to destroy enemy targets far behind the front line and disrupt enemy supplies. Of course, civilian targets in the hinterland can also be attacked with the missiles.

One reason why the US decided not to deliver this ammunition to Ukraine with the rocket launchers. The White House argues that such attacks would pose a risk that the United States would have to reckon with a retaliatory strike from Russia. In this respect, the USA will only supply projectiles with the HIMARS system that have a range of around 80 kilometers, a US government representative explained.

Both the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) and the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) are multiple rocket launchers. While the MLRS is moved from A to B on a tracked undercarriage and is also suitable for difficult terrain, the HIMARS is a light rocket launcher manufactured by Lockheed Martin on a truck frame.

The HIMARS was developed back in 1996 as a lighter but above all cheaper counterpart to the MLRS and can be transported in larger aircraft without any problems. HIMARS consists of a launcher-loader module and a fire control system, both mounted on a standard 5-ton truck chassis. A special armored cab provides protection for the three occupants operating the system. In addition to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, HIMARS is also deployed internationally. All rockets and missiles of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) can be launched from the HIMARS. The firing system itself is armed with six MLRS missiles or one Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile.

The prototype of the HIMARS was presented in 1999 and development was completed in 2002. With an unladen weight of 13.5 tons and normal tires, it can reach speeds of up to 95 km/h on the road, depending on the production series. It is far superior to the MLRS when it comes to laying over longer distances. The MLRS only reaches a top speed of 70 km/h. And that's only if the 500 hp V8 cylinder CUMMINS diesel is connected to the original three-speed gearbox. The German gearbox only allows a speed of 65 km/h.

The weapon systems installed on the MLRS and the HIMARS are almost identical, which enables both rocket launchers to fire the same ammunition. And this ranges from missiles with shaped-charge bombs with a range of up to 45 kilometers, to multipurpose warheads that can travel 150 kilometers, to the already mentioned GPS-guided tactical missiles (ATACMS) with a range of over 300 kilometers.

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