As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approached its 100-day mark on Tuesday, the United States
announced that it would send new artillery systems and radar systems to Ukraine’s troops
fighting on the southeastern front.
The four M142HIMARS, high-mobility artillery rocket systems with associated ammunition (in
this case, the Unitary guided multi-launch rocket system or GMLRS), will complement the
short-range howitzers that the US and France have sent to Ukraine recently and allow the
Ukrainian military to better protect the Russian military from the distance.
In a New York Times essay, President Biden stated that the US would send more advanced
rocket systems and weapons to Ukraine. He did not specify which weapons would be used. The
HIMARS can be used to hit targets over 70 km away. This was announced by Colin Kahl in a
June 1 press conference.
Russian officials claim that a new weapon package is a provocative act by the west. According
to The Washington Post, Russian officials claim that the new weapons package is a provocation
from the west.
We are now facing a war that is very different from the one at the start of
The HIMARS is at the top of Ukraine’s wishlist, more than the fighter planes they requested in
the beginning. According to Rita Konaev (deputy director of analysis at Georgetown University’s
Center for Security and Emerging Technology), the battlefield has changed drastically as Russia
moved and reorganized its assets in order to fight in the Donbas. This means that Ukraine’s
troops are now more familiar with the territory and have moved away from urban areas, which
Russia had failed to plan for.
Kona stated that it was becoming increasingly evident that neither side is winning the war. In
contrast to the quick-moving first weeks of the invasion when outsiders were thrilled at the idea
that the small-sized Ukrainian forces would deal surprise after surprise blow to the larger,
more-equipped Russian forces, this time it was slower-paced. She said that the battle for the
Donbas is now “a war of a mile per day”, a back-and-forth battle over territory that feels more
like World War I, than the fast-paced campaigns in February and March.
Kona stated that “that phase of the war is over.” “This phase of the war is more fragmented and
grinding.” The radical shift in battlefield nature means that the weapons available must also
Vox spoke out that she believes there are two reasons for sending HIMARS. She explained that
HIMARS provides two-fold benefits. First, they offer “greater standoff capability” which allows for
greater battlefield distance between two units. Second, HIMARS is “a massive increase in
firepower,” she stated to Vox. Third, when used strategically, the impact is “similar to airstrike
Although the Russian military has its own MLR system, John Spencer, chair of urban warfare
studies at the Madison Policy Forum, and author of Connected Soldierstold Vox that “our
weapons reach farther are more precise” than Soviet-designed systems,
Kona stated that Russia still has clear advantages on the battlefield, even though it doesn’t have
the advanced weapons systems that the US promised Ukraine.
She said that “it’s not Russia has gotten worse,” but she added, “it’s just that Russia has
concentrated its force [in a region] more amiable Russian strengths,” and “there are shorter
supply line and limited airstrikes more effectively — they can run these fast ops and head home
to base,” with a lower risk, higher-reward calculation.
Spencer explained that “In Donbas, the battles are taking place at greater distances.” Vox told
Spencer that the Ukrainian troops are “really limited in terms of their range” right now. “If you
know the location of a target, you must be able to reach it,” he said to Vox.
Spencer stated that sending HIMARS to war zones made the most sense at this time.
Here are some ways HIMARS could shift Ukraine’s advantage
The new systems won’t win the war against Ukraine immediately. Spencer said that although he
didn’t believe these [HIMARS] would provide instant change, he did say that once they are on
the battlefield, the four systems might help Ukrainian troops “regain momentum.” Kona said the
same, adding that “we won’t see the effect for at least another month.”
The Pentagon refused to disclose whether the systems were delivered to Ukraine because of
“operational security concerns,” but a spokesperson for the Pentagon Marine Corps Lt. Colonel
Anton Semelroth said that the “We did pre-position HIMARS systems Europe to ensure they can
be quickly delivered.”
It will take three weeks for the Ukrainian troops to receive the weapons, and then they will be
trained on the system. Then, they can use the weapons against Russian forces on the
battlefield. In a meeting with Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic, Sergei Shoigu,
Russian Defense Minister, threatened to “accelerate Russia’s special military operation.”
According to the Institute for the Study of War briefing, Shoigu did not provide details but said
that they believe Russian forces won’t be able to launch more advanced operations due to the
huge investment in equipment and soldiers.
In a speech last week, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Ukrainian losses are increasing, with 60
to 100 soldiers being killed each day. Russia has intensified its scorched earth tactics in
Donbas, destroying cities like Severodonetsk – preventing evacuations, resupply, and a
nightmare repeat of its Siege of Mariupol.
Spencer stated that the Russian massing of fighters in the Donbas had briefly turned the
momentum, but he warned Vox that bringing the HIMARS to the battlefield would result in “more
dead Russian generals,” which will lead to a disorganized Russian fighting force. “The path to
victory seems to be unraveling.”
Vox was told by Spencer and Konaev that the Ukrainian intelligence will be crucial in any gains
or defeats of Russian forces. Kona stated that intel has had the most significant impact on
Ukraine’s victory. This gave Ukrainian forces “the ability to protect themselves and prevent
attacks on their supply lines.” Radar systems will add to this intelligence with HIMARS and air
surveillance radars, which will disrupt Russia’s ability for air dominance.
However, the Russian side’s shelling could have a greater impact on the battlefield and civilian
safety. Kona stated that Russia’s artillery had caused the most damage, leveling large cities
such as Maruiopul or Severodonetsk. The combination of counter-artillery radars with the
longer-range mobile weapons and counter-artillery radars will hopefully stop Russia from “ruling
over the rubble,” Spencer said, claiming victory through the destruction and subjugation of
Future wars may have different weapons, but more of the same grind.
Biden’s opinion piece reiterated his position throughout the war: that NATO and the US are not
seeking war with Russia and that the US will continue arming Ukraine as it is right. However, it is
still unclear, at least according to the op-ed, just how far this will go. Given the grueling nature of
the current war, it seems that the US has the option to supply additional weapons. This could,
Kahl stated in Wednesday’s press conference, include HIMARS.
Even with the additional resources that may be available, the summer will likely prove just as
brutal, bloody, and destructive as the previous weeks. A recent Politico feature acknowledged.
Even if Ukraine can turn the tide and begin to retake the land, it will take time, piecemeal, village
by village and position by position. Russian forces continue to rain down artillery and make
incremental advances, but until then, Haidai told Politico that they are “destroying everything,
then moving through the rubble.”