Russian observers stunned by effectiveness of U.S. HIMARS system in Ukraine

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

The Ukrainians don’t have nearly enough HIMARS to change the course of the war and probably won’t ever have the number they need, although they’ll soon have 12 in the field.


But what they do have has made an impression on the enemy after just a few weeks of combat.

The HIMARS is a wheeled missile platform that can launch up to six missiles in rapid succession and then be on the move within two minutes, evading counterstrikes. It has a range of around 50 miles and it’s *fantastically* accurate due to the fact that its missiles are guided by satellite. Standard artillery may land within half a mile of the target. A HIMARS missile will land within a few meters.

Russian milbloggers have noticed.

It’s true, “wonder weapons” (“wunderwaffe”) rarely change the tide of the battle. But what if Ukraine had 80 HIMARS instead of 12? Ukraine’s defense minister called it a “game-changer” and told the WSJ that other weapons that had served Ukraine so well during the early part of the war were becoming obsolete due to Russian countermeasures or the changing reality of the battle. The Ukrainians used drones to devastating effect against Russian armor in the first two months but now the Russians are using jamming technology to thwart them. Shoulder-carried missiles like Javelins and NLAWs also aren’t top priority since the two sides moved from close combat to a long-range artillery contest.

HIMARS is the equalizer — or potential equalizer — in that contest.

Igor Girkin is a Russian ultranationalist and accused war criminal who spearheaded Russia’s operations in the Donbas in 2014. He’s spent the last four and a half months complaining that the Kremlin is fighting with one hand behind its back. After taking stock of the damage caused by the HIMARS, he’s even more exasperated:


“Our army is led by a bunch of untrained morons,” one pro-Russian separatist wrote over the weekend, upset that ammunition dumps hadn’t been moved out of range of the HIMARS. “Stupidly vile, miserable, vindictive, petty, thieving lemmings.”

The Wagner Group is an off-the-books paramilitary group which the Kremlin deploys into war zones like Syria and Ukraine to carry out dirty tactics. They’ve had a rough go of it lately from Ukrainian artillery too:

One more bit of Russian commentary, the most despairing of the bunch:


“There’s no antidote to this type of weapons,” one military analyst said. “It hits the target quite precisely, sometimes missing it for three meters at most, while the fire range is up to 70 kilometers. Defense solution against these systems simply doesn’t exist. The only way is running away if you see such a rocket flying in your direction.”

Russia does have missile defense systems in place, but if they’ve been effective at stopping HIMARS attacks they’re keeping it a closely guarded secret:

Ukraine has spent its first few weeks with the system targeting Russian command posts and ammunition dumps in the Donbas. They’re not going to defeat the Russian army with 12 modest missile platforms but they can slow it down by starving it of ammunition as Putin prepares for an offensive against Donetsk, the one province left in the east that isn’t yet under Russian control. Meanwhile, though, Ukraine is quietly readying an offensive of its own. And the HIMARS is being used to soften up the Russians there too:


Twelve Russian officers are thought to have been killed in a single rocket strike as Ukraine’s armed forces inflict punishing losses with American-supplied weapons.

The attack targeted a command post in at Chornobaivka Airport, near the occupied southern city of Kherson, and is rumoured to have killed at least one general and one colonel. It is thought to have been carried out using US HIMARS rockets…

It comes as Ukraine readies its million-strong military for a major offensive around Kherson, aiming to recapture territory seized by Russia early in the conflict.

Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov revealed President Zelensky has given his generals orders to draw up plans for the attack and come up with a list of equipment they need to get the job done.

Kherson is the major southern Ukrainian city that’s been occupied by Russia since the start of the war. They’ve spent the four months since engaged in “soft” ethnic cleansing there, attempting to Russianize the local population by moving Russians in and Ukrainians out. In fact, today news broke that Putin has signed a new law fast-tracking Russian passports for Ukrainians who live in Russian-occupied territory, another measure aimed at extinguishing Ukrainian national identity. (“The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people, but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return,” said Zelensky.) If the Ukrainian army is able to dislodge Russia from Kherson, it would be the biggest victory of the war and a searing humiliation for Putin.


It might even give Ukraine’s fickle western allies a shot in the arm by convincing them not to give up on the cause yet. The Europeans may be ambivalent but Americans are hanging in there:

We’ll see. I’ll leave you with this.

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David Strom 3:20 PM | May 24, 2024