Four Ways U.S. HIMARS Are Changing the War in Ukraine

The Pentagon has committed to sending Ukraine more ammunition and weapons to help the country in its war against Russia, and that package includes additional M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which the Ukrainian armed forces have been using with great effect against the Russian military.

The new package will mean the Ukrainian armed forces will have a total of 16 HIMARS, a weapons system that Western officials claim is turning the tide of the war in Ukraine's favor.

The rocket system, built by Lockheed Martin, is long-range, mobile and fires with precision, mounted on a standard truck frame. It has a range of around 50 miles.

HIMARS in Morocco
U.S. M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers fire salvoes during the "African Lion" military exercise in the Grier Labouihi region in southeastern Morocco on June 9, 2021. Western officials say HIMARS is changing the course of the Ukraine war. Fadel Senna/Getty

The Ukrainians have been using the weapons in a counter-offensive in the south, mainly focusing on the strategically important city of Kherson, which is occupied by Russia.

Retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling said Saturday that HIMARS has been a "game changer" against Russia, contending that Moscow's forces are now "in dire shape."

Moscow has claimed to have brought down at least four of the weapons systems, but Ukraine has said that none of its HIMARS have been destroyed.

Here are four ways that these U.S.-made weapons are changing the war in Ukraine.

Russia is having to move ammunition further from Ukrainian troops

Although Russia's artillery outnumbers Ukraine's by around 10 to 1, according to Ukrainian data, Kyiv has been using HIMARS to target Russian ammunition depots, including some in Kherson Oblast and Donbas, Illia Ponomarenko of the Kyiv Independent newspaper reported on July 11.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a televised address on Monday that HIMARS had destroyed 50 Russian ammunition depots since the Ukrainian military began using the weapons last month.

In response, the Russian military had begun moving its ammunition warehouses further from the front line, the Kyiv Post reported on July 18.

Shelled bridges, making them unsuitable for Russia's heavy logistics

Reznikov said that Ukraine artillery crews had conducted "precise" strikes on several bridges recently. Although he didn't confirm which ones, he was likely referring to three river crossings in the Kherson region that local authorities say were attacked using HIMARS over the past week. Among the targets is Antonovskiy Bridge, a vital supply route that connects the occupied Crimean Peninsula to Kherson.

If bridges are destroyed, it means that Russia is unable to transport its heavy logistics vehicles over them to bring supplies closer to the frontline, therefore stalling their advances.

Hitting Russian command posts

HIMARS also have the range to hit Russian control posts instead of just frontline battalions, meaning that those posts need to be moved further away.

For example, on June 24, the Ukrainians destroyed a command post of the 20th Army of the Russian Armed Forces' Western Military District, located in a school building in the Donbas, Ukrainian news agency Guildhall reported, citing a Ukrainian intelligence source.

Russia is rushing troops to defend Kherson

Russian forces have had to regroup in the eastern region of Donbas, where most of the fighting is taking place, but Ukraine's army has come back to Kherson with a counterattack. After the HIMARS struck three bridges outside the city, Russia is struggling to get extra troops back in time to defend the strategically important region in the south. Moscow's supply lines west of the Dnieper River are increasingly at risk from bombardment.

HIMARS has played a major role in the battle for Kherson, the British defense ministry said on Saturday.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian foreign ministry for comment.