Has the “game changer HIMARS MLRS hoopla” in Ukraine subsided?

Long-range HIMARS missiles that the US sent to Ukraine enabled Kyiv to launch a swift counterattack on Kharkiv in September 2022. However, Russian forces have gradually adapted, as shown by the fact that it took Ukraine a while to take control of Kherson, and they are no longer making any significant fresh advancements on the front lines.

If the title of one of the most famous Western weapons given to the M142 HIMARS system is always stated at the top.

This weapon is what makes Ukraine’s counterattacks successful. At least 20 HIMARS launchers have already been sent by the US to Ukraine.

But does this method retain its high level of effectiveness after the initial phase of seriously harming Russian forces? Russian analysts claim that the country has now adapted and is familiar with HIMARS. It was dubbed a “game-changing” weapon when HIMARS first arrived on the Ukrainian battlefield last summer. With a maximum range of 80 kilometres and the ability to deploy GPS-guided precision-guided missiles, HIMARS has destroyed numerous Russian command posts, ammunition dumps, and oil depots.

Early in September 2022, HIMARS opened the door for a swift Ukrainian counterattack in Kharkiv. The missile launched from HIMARS allegedly possessed a hidden capability, such as the ability to alter its own trajectory, according to a video that was later released by Russian media.

However, the outcome was not the same when Ukraine utilised HIMARS in their counterattack on the southern city of Kherson.

According to Rob Lee, a Senior Fellow at the Asia-Europe Program of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, and Michael Kofman, a Russia analyst at the CNA Institute in the US, “Ukraine took more than two months, until November 2022, to recapture the city of Kherson and the lands around the Dnipro River.”

The two analysts stated that “what transpired at Kherson implies that the effectiveness of HIMARS may have been overstated and that the weapon’s effects weakened after its initial two months of operation on the battlefield.”

In order to fortify the line on the opposite side of the Dnipro River, Russian forces deliberately retreated from the city of Kherson. In spite of the challenge from HIMARS, Russia continued to fire and gradually removed its equipment from Kherson.

Russia has made modifications in reaction to HIMARS, including relocating supply hubs away of HIMARS’ line of sight, fortifying command posts, installing interceptor systems, and actively camouflaging and diverting HIMARS.

The Russian forces at Kherson were in a challenging position tactically. Only a few ferries and a dam can pass through the Russian military’s bridgehead on the western bank of the Dnipro to deliver supplies and reinforcements from vital Russian positions on the east side.

Despite employing a variety of potent weapons, particularly HIMARS, Ukraine was unable to halt Russian supply supplies and encountered fierce opposition.

The two analysts asserted that “Kherson is a warning of the difficulty of offensive movement against an entrenched foe with sufficient artillery and anti-aircraft systems.”

Early in January 2023, the Ukrainian military allegedly launched six HIMARS rockets, killing at least 89 Russian soldiers, after exploiting a Russian unit stationed in the Donetsk region’s negligence to pinpoint the area.

One of the most significant Russian casualties of the war was inflicted by Ukraine. HIMARS did not, however, give the Ukrainian army an advantage in the frontline zones. The fact that Russia’s army and Wagner mercenaries advanced around the important city of Bakhmut serves as confirmation.

Access to US intelligence and reconnaissance networks is extremely advantageous for Ukraine. The US satellite data that Ukraine received enables Kiev to plan surpise operations and deal heavy casualties to Russia.

“Russia has neither fired down a US satellite out of fear for an escalation of the conflict, nor has it blocked the Ukrainian military from obtaining US intelligence,” Kofman added.

In December 2022, a Russian military commander told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti: “We now have no difficulty identifying, tracking, and intercepting missiles launched by the HIMARS system.”

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has stopped mentioning HIMARS systems in recent speeches, despite the fact that the US still has 14 HIMARS launchers that have not been handed to Ukraine in accordance with previous agreements.

Zelensky pleaded with the West to provide Ukraine with tanks and armoured vehicles in order to increase its firepower. “More armoured vehicles, including French-made light tanks, will be delivered to us. This makes it abundantly evident to all partners that there is no need for an explanation. why Ukraine has not yet received Western tanks,”

Poland declared on January 11 that it will send a company of Leopard 2 tanks, or 14 tanks, to Ukraine in response to Mr. Zelensky’s requests. The Leopard 2 is regarded as the most potent tank in Europe right now.

The US is also open to the idea of supplying Ukraine with M1 main battle tanks, but the current barrier is the necessity for a significant logistical and maintenance network as well as the tanks’ high fuel consumption.

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