Can HIMARS be intercepted by Russia’s latest air defence “software”?

Russian air defence units have supposedly been given “new software” that can track and shoot down Ukrainian-owned US high-maneuver HIMARS missiles. Is HIMARS now doomed to failure?

The Russian Air Defense Forces have received new software, enabling them to quickly detect and shoot down the missiles of the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) supplied by the US to Ukraine, according to the commander of one of the Russian air defence units based in Zaporozhye, who made the announcement on December 2. For Ukraine, the US-supplied HIMARS system has been a “game changer” in thwarting Russian assaults. According to the majority of specialists, the HIMARS system has had the most influence on the Russian-Ukrainian war to far.

However, experts reportedly claim that Russian air defence forces can quickly fire down HIMARS missiles by using modern software that enables calculations to be up to 100% accurate. The commander of the Russian air defence forces was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying: “If at first the Russian air defence forces did not grasp what the HIMARS missile is, then after putting a new programme on existing air defence systems. they become “normal targets.”

The commander of the Russian air defence force declared, “We can detect and intercept without any issues, soon.” Approximately 10 HIMARS missiles had been successfully shot down by the force under his command, he continued, including four last month. In principle, even prior to the introduction of new software, 75–80% of the missiles launched by the HIMARS system were shot down, but not all of them, according to Alexei Podberezkin, Director of the Center for Political-Military Studies of MGIMO, quoted in the Russian daily Sputnik.

However, he said, more accurate calculations now allow for the almost assured downing of HIMARS rockets. Russia hasn’t said when it upgraded the new software for its domestic air defence systems, though.

It was previously stated that the Russian Army was using Tornado-S, their own HIMARS variant, to counter HIMARS. The US HIMARS, a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) that shoots guided rounds and is used to attack targets deep in the enemy rear, is comparable to the Tornado-S.

The US HIMARS M142 is claimed to lack several of the features that the Tornado-S boasts. For instance, the US HIMARS M142 can only shoot six 227 mm M31, GPS-guided missiles in a row, each with an accuracy of 5 to 10 metres and an 80 km range. In contrast, Russia’s 9A54 Tornado-S systems can fire 12 GLONASS-guided 300 mm missiles with a maximum range of 120 km, although they do not have the accuracy of HIMARS. Tornado-S also has a launch-ready time of only three minutes, making it speedier and more effective.

The quantity of US HIMARS launchers quickly decreased as the conflict in Ukraine erupted. The US Department of Defense stated on December 1 that Lockheed Martin had been awarded a contract for the production of additional HIMARS systems worth $430 million.

The package production contract, according to the US Department of Defense, is to satisfy a “urgent demand” to serve the US Army and foreign partners. The number of HIMARS launchers that will be made was not stated in the statement. Since the system was given to Ukraine in April, this is the first contract for its manufacture, according to a statement from the Pentagon. The contract expires on December 31, 2025.

The new HIMARS system won’t be provided to any specific foreign allies, according to the US Department of Defense. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and other states in the country will participate in the production. The US has given Ukraine 20 HIMARS launchers since the crisis there began and has promised to give it another 18 in the future years. Reznikov, the defence minister of Ukraine, referred to the weapon as a “game changer” since it was effective in thwarting Russian counterattacks.

The HIMARS missile has “established itself” as a significant weapon, enhancing Ukraine’s ability to destroy bridges, ammo depots, and other significant targets while undermining the Russian Army’s logistical strength.

Independent experts assert that obsolete and insufficient technology is the primary cause of Russia’s difficulty countering HIMARS missiles. However, it is still too soon to tell how the new “HIMARS killer” programme can help the Russian Army intercept himar missiles.

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