U.S. doubles HIMARS order for Ukraine as the first four get deployed

U.S. doubles HIMARS order for Ukraine as the first four get deployed

June 24, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack
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Ukrainian combat medics, somewhere on the front lines

The U.S. has announced the next tranche of its weekly flow of military aid:

•         Four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems;

•         36,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition;

•         18 tactical vehicles to tow 155mm artillery;

•         1,200 grenade launchers;

•         2,000 machine guns;

•         18 coastal and riverine patrol boats;

•         Spare parts and other equipment.

Look at that, more HIMARS. All the people hyperventilating last week that four wasn’t enough … are now complaining that four isn’t enough. It doesn’t help when Ukrainian “military experts” are spinning fiction:

If we are talking about the Western-made M-270 and M-142, getting 300 is quite realistic. The public archives of Lockheed Martin for 2015 show that in the US, more than 1300 MLRS systems were produced, including 850 M-270 units. So I am not so sure about the data of the experts who claimed an insufficient number (600 MLRS) in the US. I have not verified these numbers at the US warehouses, of course. In addition, almost every NATO country and the US partners outside the NATO bloc have the M-270 and M-142 MLRS systems in service. We can get 300 MLRS systems if each partner country provides four units.

LOL, okay. First of all, “almost every NATO country and the US partners outside NATO bloc” do not have M270s or HIMARS. Two NATO countries field HIMARS—the United States and Romania. Seven NATO countries have MLRS—France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey, UK, US, plus Finland. There are 30 countries in NATO.

300 divided by four is 75. So he thinks there are 75 countries with HIMARS and M270 MLRS. The real number is 16). And as I’ve repeatedly noted, the issue isn’t launchers. Given their range and the size of the front, you could literally park a single unit in the three operational zones (Kharkiv, Donbas, Kherson) and fire a continuous stream of rockets as long as supply lines support it, and the launchers don’t break down.

But believe it or not, I’m not as frustrated this time, because thanks to Gens. Ben Hodges and Mark Hertling, people are finally starting to get it. So we now get conversations like this:

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My message is getting through! The “2.5 tons” is the tell that someone read my story on the topic, and it’s permeating the Twitterverse. As Ukraine develops new supply systems to keep these hungry beasts fed, more will likely arrive. But ultimately, Ukraine won’t need so many. Twenty-seven or so (three batteries, one for each theater), constantly supplied, will be more than enough, even assuming a significant portion are down at any moment for maintenance issues. (The M270s are a maintenance nightmare, so I’m really hoping the HIMARS are more dependable). As long as replacement units are made available for the inevitable combat losses, Ukraine will have itself dramatically upgrade artillery capabilities.

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A single HIMARS’ range on the Donbas front

People also underestimate the last bullet point, “spare parts and other equipment.” That includes the things that keep all this stuff working, and is literally as important as fuel and ammunition. If you’re wondering whether “105mm munitions” is a typo, it is not. New Zealand and the UK are both sending these mini L119 howitzers to Ukraine, and the U.S. is chipping in some ammo for them. We can all question the wisdom of saddling Ukraine’s logistical chain with yet another caliber round to shuttle to the front, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these guns are tasked to territorial defense, freeing up bigger guns for the front.

Finally, “18 coastal and riverine patrol boats” seems … weird. Such boats would be no match for Russia’s navy and anti-ship missiles, and deploying them will be tough with the Bosphorus closed to military traffic (at Ukraine’s request, remember). Ukraine requested them for a reason, prioritizing them over other needs. I wonder what that reason is.

Ironically, HIMARS will be even better positioned to strike Russian forces as that Severodonetsk/Lysychansk pockets gets rolled up by Russia.

Ukraine has lost at least two, likely three M777 Howitzers by moving them up to Lysychansk to aid in the defense of Severodonetsk. That’s the problem with that pocket—it’s hard to supply and support with artillery. With more compact front lines, HIMARS can roam the triangle between Sloviansk/Kramatorsk, Sivers’k, and Bakhmut, blasting the shit out of anything trying to approach those cities.

Ukraine announced that the first HIMARS are already operational in country. Honestly, I wish they’d shut up about it, even hold back video of the first strikes. Why give Russia advance notice to start hunting these down? But Ukraine seems eager to show these off for both morale purposes, and to prove their worth as they lobby for more.

Meanwhile, I was blown away by this video:

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Ukraine has been successfully pounding Russian supply depots well behind enemy lines with these Tochka-Us, like this apocalyptic hellscape caught on video.

Ukraine had around 500 of these ballistic missiles before the war, and it’s amazing that 1) Ukraine still has these after four months of war; and 2) Russia still can’t hunt these down. They had all that time to prepare for this war. Years. Russians blend in culturally and linguistically in Ukraine, and they had plenty of Ukrainian sympathizers who could’ve done the work for them. They couldn’t have shadowed these missile units pre-invasion, ready to transmit targeting data for the first wave of cruise missiles on February 24? Units like these have a home base and barracks. They were likely sitting ducks, as President Vladymyr Zelenskyy refused to preemptively act on President Joe Biden’s warnings of an imminent Russian attack in order to avoid panic.

At my MLRS unit back in the late 80s, early 90s, we assumed the Soviets were keeping an eye on us, ready to strike us within the first hours of any Warsaw Pact invasion. Heck, our post had signs with directions on where to find motor pools for the artillery, armor, engineering, and MLRS units. It’s impossible to hide a unit’s permanent home. Russia should’ve have all this mapped out, ready to strike at the very start of the war while Ukraine was scrambling to disperse its units to the field.

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I’m writing this at midnight pacific, for morning publishing. And just as I was signing off, I saw this:

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