Since June 2022, when Ukraine received the HIMARS rocket systems from the U.S., it began carrying out precise strikes on Russian command centers, munitions depots, and supply facilities. However, in the following months, news about these successful strikes seemed to vanish, leaving many wondering why the HIMARS rocket system, renowned for its capabilities, has not been making headlines lately.
One reason behind the lack of news about HIMARS strikes is operational security. With Western countries providing Ukraine with even longer-range weapons, such as the Storm Shadow cruise missile, the Ukrainian forces refrain from disclosing which weapon they used in a particular strike. Revealing this information could give Russia valuable insights into its capabilities, allowing them to focus on locating and neutralizing these advanced weapons.
The HIMARS GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) boasts a significant range, but it is likely deployed further back from the frontline to avoid easy detection. The ideal positioning is in proximity to a hiding spot, such as a garage, where the launcher can seek cover after firing. By avoiding open fields, Ukraine can limit the number of possible locations for Russia to monitor, reducing the chances of interception.
Despite the apparent decrease in news coverage, Ukraine continues to employ the HIMARS system effectively. Although videos of strikes are infrequent, the Russian Ministry of Defense continually claims to shoot down HIMARS rockets daily. These claims are challenging to verify, but they underscore the continued use of the HIMARS system by Ukraine. If we assume the Russian claims are accurate and that all the rockets are being intercepted, it would mean over 3,600 HIMARS GMLRS rockets have been fired since the system’s deployment.
It is worth noting that the U.S. government does not disclose the exact number of HIMARS rockets sent to Ukraine, only stating that additional ammunition is being supplied. This lack of transparency makes it challenging to assess the total number of rockets available to Ukraine.
Another potential reason behind the HIMARS system’s reduced success rate is the advancement of Russian air defense systems. As time progresses, Russian air defense operators gain more experience in countering the HIMARS threat. They fine-tune their radar settings and tracking techniques to improve interception rates.
The introduction of the G.L. SDB (Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb) was expected to boost Ukraine’s capabilities further. This system was designed to have double the range of typical rockets and enhanced maneuverability to avoid air defense systems. However, we haven’t heard much about its impact on the conflict. The G.L. SDB can glide, which increases its range but slows down its speed, making it more susceptible to interception.
Moreover, the flat and open terrain in Western Ukraine limits the G.L. SDB’s ability to capitalize on its maneuverability effectively. Unlike the mountainous regions where it can utilize its features to strike from unexpected angles, the lack of natural cover in Western Ukraine diminishes its advantages.
Another factor influencing the perceived decline in HIMARS effectiveness is the shift in Russian supply logistics. Previously, supplies could be easily transported by train and distributed near the frontline. With the introduction of HIMARS and the necessity to move supply depots further back to safeguard them, Russia now faces logistical challenges. The elongated supply routes result in slower resupply times, leaving them vulnerable during Ukrainian offensives.
Additionally, Russia’s intelligence-gathering capabilities are also called into question. Their spy satellites, utilizing outdated film technology until 2015, and a limited number of imaging satellites, restrict their ability to monitor Ukraine’s military movements and logistics effectively. In contrast, the U.S. has more sophisticated satellite technology, enabling higher-resolution imagery that allows for better intelligence gathering.
In conclusion, while the news coverage may have diminished, Ukraine continues to rely on the HIMARS system as a crucial asset in its conflict with Russia. Operational security and advancements in Russian air defense systems may have influenced the perceived decline in effectiveness. However, the threat posed by HIMARS, coupled with Russia’s logistical challenges and intelligence limitations, ensures it remains a critical force in the ongoing conflict between the two nations.