Russia Ukraine War 2022

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Nov 1, 2016
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New U.S. Guided Rockets Strengthen Ukraine’s Hand Against Russia


SLOVYANKA, Ukraine—American-supplied high-tech rocket launchers have begun arriving on the front line in eastern Ukraine. Already they are shifting the balance of power in the fierce artillery duel being fought with Russian forces, Ukrainian officers say.

For more than a month, a Russian field headquarters not far from here was frustratingly beyond the range of Lt. Valentyn Koval’s Soviet-era artillery battery, he said. That changed last week, when Lt. Koval’s unit got a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or Himars.

Under cover of darkness, his unit drove the truck-mounted rocket launcher into position, punched in coordinates and pressed the launch button. Six 200-pound rockets slammed into the Russian position, largely destroying it, said Lt. Koval, who commands two Himars launchers.

The Russian base was one of about 10 high-value positions Lt. Koval says Ukraine has hit in the two weeks since taking charge of the systems, the most sophisticated weaponry Washington has supplied to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.

Each Himars fires six precision-guided rockets with a range of up to 48 miles, giving the Ukrainians the ability to strike Russian command posts, ammunition and fuel depots, as well as troop concentrations in rear areas.

The U.S. has declined to provide Ukraine with longer-range rockets that can be fired by the Himars at targets up to 185 miles away.

Ukrainian soldiers operating Himars say they have doubled their reach into Russian-held territory with greater precision and less risk to themselves. Kyiv officials say such weaponry is their best hope to defeat the Russians in what has become a grueling war of attrition.

“These Himars are very powerful. They allow us as much as possible to put a stick in their wheel,” 22-year-old Lt. Koval said about the Russian forces. “It’s a huge advantage for us. Russia has nothing comparable.”

Soviet-designed Smerch and Uragan long-range multiple-launch systems are imprecise and time-consuming to use, relying on analog instruments for targeting. The systems are unarmored, difficult to maneuver and often break down, exposing operators to risk of counterattack.

Himars are smaller and easier to maneuver, helping them hide from enemy reconnaissance. Crews work inside an armored cabin. And they are fast: once parked, they can begin launching rockets within two or three minutes and move again 20 seconds after firing.

Due to the $155,000 price tag per rocket, the Ukrainians are focusing the firepower on high-value targets like military headquarters, weapons depots and barracks rather than individual Russian tanks or artillery systems.

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