The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) has been in the spotlight for the past months, simultaneously becoming an MVP for the Ukrainian troops as they continue fighting the Russian invaders off their motherland. Following its success, the US-made artillery has caught the eyes of many international armed forces across the globe, including Australia, which is now looking into not only buying the highly precise and deadly weapon but also locally producing its powerful Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
Australia To Consider Producing HIMARS MLRS, Official Says
Last week, a Lockheed Martin executive told reporters that Canberra is currently working on negotiations with the US in procuring the HIMARS to ramp up the latter’s military arsenal, as well as looking into possible manufacturing of the rockets in the country.
James Heading, Lockheed Martin Australia’s director of programs in the strategic capabilities office for missiles and fire control, said that local production of the MLRS in the country would be ideal than importing the armament, especially during a conflict that would pose a challenge.
In May, the US State Department gave the Australian government the thumbs up on the latter’s proposed request to purchase 20 M142 HIMARS systems for an estimated amount of AU$542 million (US$385 million). Aside from the HIMARS, the proposed arms deal will also include 30 M30A2 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), 30 Alternative Warhead (AW) pods with Insensitive Munitions Propulsion Systems (IMPS), 30 M31A2 GMLRS Unitary (GMLRS-U) high explosive pods with IMPS, 30 XM403 Extended Range (ER)-GMLRS AW pods, 30 EM404 ER GMLRS unitary pods, and 10 M57 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). The additional armaments will not only bolster the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Australian armed forces but also secure and ensure stability around its geopolitical and strategic position in the Western Pacific.
By granting the deal, the US would support its important ally for self-defense against adversaries, particularly China, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement following the approval.
“It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defence capability.”
The approval of the HIMARS system sale is the latest transaction between the US and Australia. In April, the former approved the latter’s proposed request acquisition of 106 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS JTRS) terminals, along with Multifunctional Information Distribution System MIDS-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT) Block Upgrade Two (BU2) retrofit kits and Low Volume Terminal (LVT) Cryptographic Modules (LCM), amounting to approximately US$42 million. Canberra also received the green light earlier in the year for procuring the US-made Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) and related equipment for a whopping US$122 million.
Lockheed Martin’s Current Golden Child
As part of an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control developed the HIMARS light multiple rocket launcher for the US Army in the late 1990s. It is mounted on a typical US Army Family off Medium Tactical Vehicles five-ton truck and can be loaded with a six-pack of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) or one Tactical Missile System (TACMS) missile and is capable of launching an entire MLRS family of munitions.
Aside from affordability and sustainability, the sophisticated artillery is minimally operated by at least five personnel consisting of a driver, gunner, and a three-person crew that controls the rocket system, which has a video camera, keyboard controls, a gigabyte of software storage, and a high-precision Global Positioning System (GPS).
HIMARS first saw combat in 2010, participating in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan, then deployed to Iraq in 2015 and Syria in 2016, and remained active throughout the 2010s in suppressing adversaries in the Middle East.
Its popularity soared, however, after consecutive assaults in Ukraine since mid-2022. The US sent the deadly rocket system to assist the Ukrainian troops in defending and reclaiming territories off the hands of Russian aggressors. So far, Kyiv has received around 20 HIMARS and has been frustrating the Russian Army as it destroyed some of its strongholds, including command centers, supply depots, and critical routes. Because of this, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called for eliminating the US-lent rocket system as a high-priority target.
Once delivered, Australia will join the US, Romania, Singapore, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan as operators of HIMARS. This year, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Taiwan have expressed interest in buying the revered rocket system to bolster their armed forces and military capabilities—particularly Poland, which shares the same borders as Ukraine and Taiwan, which is in boiling waters with China.