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Advanced Rocket Launcher System Heads to Ukraine

As part of the latest presidential drawdown package for Ukraine — this one worth $700 million dollars — the Defense Department has included four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. 

A weapons system fires amid smoke and flame.
Live Fire
Marines fire a reduced-range practice rocket from an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April. 4, 2022. The Defense Department announced June 1 it would send four HIMARS systems to Ukraine as part of the latest military aid package.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Megan Ozaki
VIRIN: 220403-M-MI238-2812

The M142 HIMARS system allows for the launching of multiple, precision-guided rockets. Along with the HIMARS system, the department is also including the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System to be used with HIMARS. Those rockets are capable of hitting a target more than 40 miles away. 

"What the HIMARS will allow them to do is to get greater standoff. Right now, the howitzers we provided them have about a 30 km range; the HIMARS have more than twice that, which will allow them — even with fewer systems — greater standoff," said Colin H. Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, during a briefing today at the Pentagon. 

Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, stands at a podium with a monitor on the side.
Kahl Briefing
Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, holds a press briefing at the Pentagon, June 1, 2022.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Taryn Sammet
VIRIN: 220601-D-ZY556-0006W

The HIMARS system also provides increased precision, Kahl said. 

"These are precision guided systems with extended range," he said. "For high value targets, that, that allows them to keep some of the pressure off of Ukrainian forces on the front, [which] we think these systems will be very useful." 

To ensure the most rapid delivery of HIMARS systems to Ukraine, Kahl said DOD pre-positioned systems inside Europe in anticipation of the president's decision to approve their transfer to Ukraine. 

Before that transfer happens, Kahl said, the U.S. will provide training on the system to both Ukrainian users and maintainers. 

A rocket launches into the air.
Rocket Launch
Marines launch a high mobility artillery rocket system during weapons and tactics instructor course at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, April 6, 2022.
Photo By: Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Pysher
VIRIN: 220406-M-EA659-1048C

"These, of course, are systems that the Ukrainians need to be trained on," he said. "We think that'll take around three weeks. They need to know not just how to use the systems, but, of course, how to maintain the system — so, think of logistics, maintenance, things like that. So, it'll be a number of weeks until that training is complete." 

In addition to the four HIMARS systems, this latest package of equipment for Ukraine will include five counter-artillery radar systems; two air-surveillance radars; 1,000 Javelins and 50 command launch units; 6,000 anti-armor weapons; 15,000 155-mm artillery rounds; four Mi-17 helicopters; 15 tactical vehicles; and additional spare parts and equipment. 

The latest equipment package for Ukraine will likely not be the last, Kahl said. 

"We will continue to closely consult with Ukraine and surge additional available systems and capabilities in support of its defense," he said. 

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Since the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, the U.S. has provided $4.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine. Recently, Congress approved, and the president signed, an additional $40 billion in support to Ukraine — $8 billion of that is for additional presidential drawdown authority.  

But the U.S. isn't the only nation helping the Ukrainians defend their sovereignty. 

"Even as we continue to provide vital assistance, I would be remiss if I failed to recognize and commend our allies and partners from more than 40 countries who have joined us to continue supporting Ukraine with heavy weapons, munitions and other vital security assistance," Kahl said. "Our support for Ukraine and that of the international community remains unwavering." 

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