Hard To Kill: Why HIMARS Is So Difficult To Intercept?

US 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. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

HIMARS rocket artillery supplied by the US to Ukraine has proven its power on the battlefield, making the Russian army struggle to cope.

Using all the heavy and long-range weaponry available, including HIMARS, Ukraine began a campaign that has destroyed 50 fuel and munition depots in occupied parts of Ukraine, jeopardizing Russian logistics, vital supplies, and artillery power. 

According to Al Jazeera News, the HIMARS rocket artillery systems have performed very well on the battlefield, making Russia difficult to deal with or even unable to cope. It’s been nearly a month since U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, had their long-awaited debut in Ukraine, but its combat record is already extensive.

The Russian military, despite possessing a lot of powerful anti-aircraft defense systems, advertised as capable of destroying many flying targets at high speed, has never been able to shoot down missiles from the HIMARS complex. Ukraine launched.

Military expert Ryan McBeth – a former US special forces soldier who fought in the Middle East, said that the reason why it is so difficult to intercept missiles from the HIMARS complex is that Ukraine uses an extremely smart tactic.

Specifically, the Ukrainian side never fired missiles from a single HIMARS complex, but always “fired” with many other rockets – for example, Grad.

Missiles from the HIMARS complex have a maximum flight speed of Mach 2.4; while the missiles from the Grad multiple launch rocket complex have a maximum flight speed of Mach 2.1. The difference in speed is too small, making Russian air defence system unable to distinguish between HIMARS and Grad missiles.

Ukraine wisely placed the Grad complexes right next to the HIMARS launchers, firing at the same time and flying in the same direction. The only thing that the Russian crew could see on the radar screen, would be just dots. Red chit moves at extremely fast speeds. Chances of intercepting missiles at Mach 2 and above, which are already difficult, now become even more fragile, when it comes to distinguishing what is a valuable target, It’s not just “bait”.

Ryan McBeth commented that the Ukrainian military did a great job, knowing how to take advantage of the cheap and modern weapons available to create good combat effectiveness. Emphasizing that Russia can completely upgrade their radar systems with software or additional hardware, so that they can distinguish each type of flying target, but the upgrade process can take years. heaven, but not in a short time.

Pantsir, S-300 and S-400 failed to intercept HIMARS

Even advanced Russian air defense systems find it hard or impossible to intercept incoming HIMARS rockets.

Russia’s much-advertised S-400 or Pantsir-S1 air defense systems, which have been deployed in occupied Ukraine, have not been effective at stopping them over the last few weeks. Russia’s S-300 or S-400 systems are supposed to be able to successfully intercept medium- and long-range aerodynamic (cruise missiles) or ballistic targets.

According to experts polled by the Kyiv Independent, the only realistic chance for Russia to destroy the HIMARS is to strike when a Ukrainian crew fails to leave its position quickly or when it exposes its location. So far Ukrainian troops are using hit and run tactics making it even harder to spot the next HIMARS position.

But the problem is that HIMARS’ rockets are very hard to notice on Russian air defense and surveillance radar, giving Russia a few seconds to react.

HIMARS M30/M31 GMLRS rockets strike their targets at the speed of Mach 2.5, or nearly 3,062.6 kilometers per hour. Therefore, when they have to reach a target 80 kilometers away, they spend some 94 seconds in the air before they hit their target. But they also fly at altitudes far lower than any cruise or ballistic missile, giving Russian air defense little time to notice them and react.

HIMARS doesn’t follow ballistic projectile path like the ballistic missiles nor it follows cruise missiles trajectory. It’s a simple aerodynamic rocket with precision guidance system to guide the rocket to the targets. Russia has no equivalent to the HIMARS.

According to standard practice, a truck could complete just one round trip daily between a frontline unit and a supply depot located beyond the HIMARS effective range 90 kilometers away from the front line. Withdrawing to new loading areas at safe railroad centers in southern Ukraine would render Russian delivery time between one and a half to two times slower than usual.

HIMARS has six launch tubes armed with the GPS-guided GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems) rockets with 80 to 120km range. Should Ukraine be finally provided with 300-kilometer ATACMS missiles, the situation will become even more complicated for Russia.

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