Putin’s guns are crushing the Ukrainian army. Now Kyiv is getting a rocket launcher with a range of 80 kilometers. He is to destroy the Russian artillery.
The US is sending M142 HIMARS multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine. This pitcher could turn the tide in Donbass. The reason is in the range. The HIMARS is considered a “light” rocket launcher, but is one of the “heavy” weapons. It is only called “light” because the launcher is mounted on a truck and not on an armored chassis with track drive like its predecessor. This makes it more mobile, requires significantly less maintenance and – crucial for Ukraine – can be transported by plane.
Like all modern multiple rocket launchers, the M142 is a descendant of the Soviet Katyusha (BM-13) – also known as the Stalinorgel by the Germans. A launcher with space for several rockets is mounted on a truck. They can be started individually. But the actual effect lies in the volley launch of all rockets from a launcher or even a battery. Then countless warheads hit the target and cover a large area.
Precise with a long range
A lot has happened technically since the Second World War. In the case of these launchers, the rockets, ammunition, have been greatly improved. They are far more accurate than they used to be and – what matters in Donbass – their range is longer. Normal non-range-enhanced ammunition of a heavy howitzer has a range of 30 to 40 kilometers. The HIMARS can be equipped with a single short-range missile – its range is then up to 500 kilometers. Ukraine does not get this. Variants with a six-rocket launcher will be delivered to Ukraine. Then the range is between 32 and 80 kilometers, depending on the type of rocket. For the Ukraine, the long ranges, i.e. 80 kilometers, are of particular interest.
In the Donbass war, the distances are short. A launcher with a range of 70 kilometers could support several front sections at the same time. With a range of 70 kilometers, he can mainly fight the heavy Russian artillery and stay out of their sphere of action. The devastating effect of artillery is central to Russian warfare. If Moscow’s troops meet resistance, they deploy so much firepower that even fortified and bunkered positions have to be abandoned. The M142 can thwart this strategy. Provided that Kyiv also receives the appropriate amounts of ammunition.
Superior fire control system
In principle, Russia also has long-range missiles and projectiles. So it will not be the case that a HIMARS launcher is unattainable. However, the Ukrainian artillery uses a far more modern fire control system than the Russian one. Combined with the Starlink satellite system, it’s possible to disband the batteries and deploy the launchers individually, cloaked, so they don’t form a concentrated target. However, they can very quickly provide fire support or attack an enemy battery. The M142’s missiles are GPS controlled and correct their trajectory. Unlike the Stalin organs of the Second World War, they are also accurate over long distances. If Russian artillery is spotted by drones or by special radar equipment, the location of the howitzers can be fired upon within minutes.
Long range even with howitzers
In principle, heavy artillery – the Panzerhaubitze 2000, for example – can also achieve very long ranges with special ammunition. Then a projectile is used, which is first accelerated by the propellant charge in the tube, but which still has a small rocket drive itself. A cannon can shoot 60 or even more than 100 kilometers. The only problem is: This ammunition is new, expensive and not available in large numbers. So the Western Allies can’t plunder magazines of old ammunition to help Ukraine.
The US President has long hesitated to supply Ukraine with long-range weapons. Kyiv is said to have given the assurance that the weapons would not be used against Russian territory. It is unclear whether the USA can also make such a mission technically impossible via GPS control.