Ukrainian Ground Forces are taking advantage of all the weaponry supplied by ally nations, including the HIMARS (specifically provided by the US). But, as HIMARS proved to be Russia’s biggest threat on the ground, the Russian military is reportedly looking for ways to counter this high-capacity missile launcher.
About two days ago, Ukraine targeted various regions in Kherson to push Russian forces out. With the help of HIMARS, the Russian base has been hit in Chornobaivka, according to the Ukrainian website Obozrevatel. Ukrainian forces also used the HIMARS to target an ammunition warehouse in Berislav.
“The results of the fire control of the main transport routes in the occupied territories show that movement on the railway bridge across the Dnipro River is impossible,” Operation Command South reported.
On the other hand, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claims they have destroyed the HIMARS after thousands of Russian forces were deployed on Feb. 24. But Pentagon said Tuesday that these claims are false.
“We are aware of these latest claims by Minister Shoigu and they are again patently false,” Todd Breasseale, the Pentagon’s acting spokesman, said.
“What is happening, however, is that the Ukrainians are employing with devastating accuracy and effectiveness, each of the fully accounted for precision missile systems the US, our Allies, and partners have provided them to defend against Russia’s brutal, criminal invasion,” Breasseale added.
Reuters notes that Russia “regularly claims” to hit HIMARS, but no proof has been shown.
However, as Russian media continue masquerading with false claims, their military is reportedly scouring ways to deflect HIMARS attacks.
EurAsian Times spoke with Defense Expert Girish Linganna to explore how Russia’s trying to find ways of defending against HIMARS. Linganna said they are using pyramidal radar deflectors for now and seeing how these would fare against the HIMARS.
“In Ukraine, reports suggest troops are using Guided MLRS that adds on the use of GPS coordinates of the target and the inertial navigation system. This has devastated the Russians in Kherson, who have tried to move their supplies closer to civilian centers. This precision targeting in urban setup is where HIMARS shines.”
“They have deployed pyramidal radar deflectors. Although the Ukrainian soldiers can spot their targets with the naked eye, the missile system using radars and satellite imagery (also using specialized radars) cannot, by its design, locate a target. The system sees the entire stretch as one flat surface. Russians exploit a technical flaw in how HIMARS works to protect their supply line. “
The radar deflectors or corner deflectors are generally used to deceive radar-guided missiles. Russian forces have reportedly deployed their deflectors around the Antonivsky Bridge and Rail Bridge in Kherson.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence confirmed this and said Russia’s positioning these “in the water” to avoid detection.
“The radar reflectors [deflectors] are likely being used to hide the bridge from synthetic aperture radar imagery and possible missile targeting equipment. “This will highly likely impact Russian military logistical resupply and put pressure on Russian military combat support elements,” the defense assessment said.
“This highlights the threat Russia feels from the increased range and precision of Western-supplied systems.”
However, Linganna said Russia’s efforts seemed pointless since HIMARS are not radar-guided systems.
“GMLRS uses GPS coordinates of the target and its inertial navigation system. The GPS coordinates are provided using intel from other sources such as satellites. The radar is used by satellites to pick the GPS coordinates. In HIMARS, as used in Ukraine, the missile does not have radar, but systems that feed GPS to GMLRS use radar to find the target coordinates.”
With this, Russia still has no form of defense against the high-precision HIMARS. Therefore, at this point, HIMARS has become the ultimate weapon for Ukraine in turning the war around.
“HIMARS, along with GMLRs, achieve remarkable strike precision,” said Konstantinos Grivas, who teaches advanced weapons systems at the Hellenic Army Academy.
“The Russians have nothing equivalent because these systems were developed by the Americans as a sort of sniper artillery for use in difficult environments like Fallujah [in Iraq], where you had to hit the target exactly because it was surrounded by civilians.”
“If there’s a building you’re receiving fire from within the urban environment, you aim at that building from up to 80km (50 miles) away, and within a few minutes of receiving fire you land a rocket on the building in question.”
We will follow Russian movements in the coming days to see if there’s any effect on their use of these deflectors on the battlefield.