More, Please

Last week I wrote a piece about how the White House flip-flopped on its decision on whether or not we were going to send medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine. When all of the flopping was done with, the President decided it was a “go.” We now know the number of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) we are planning on sending: Just four. The trouble is, Ukraine says they need sixty multiple launch rocket systems to have a chance at beating Russia. Four is a hell of a long way from sixty. I did a quick check and found out there have only been 414 of the things built since they went into service in 2010, and many of those were sold to our allies.

I then checked to see if maybe we will be replacing the HIMARS with something else in the near future. We will not. Lockheed Martin has recently signed a contract to build additional HIMARS capable of firing the Army’s long-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), which is a surface to surface, all-weather precision-guided missile capable of hitting targets out to 300 miles. PrSMs are due to enter service in 2023.

The HIMARS firing the Army Tactical Missile System. Image Credit: British Ministry of Defense

In addition to sixty new rocket systems, Ukraine is saying that they need access to additional sophisticated air defense systems to protect their citizens from relentless shelling by the Russians. Back in April, we sent AN/MPQ-64 aerial surveillance radar and AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder anti-artillery systems to Ukraine. It sounds as if they could use some more help in that department as well.

Oleksiy Arestovych, a close advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in an interview with The Guardian that sixty rocket launchers would stop the Russians “dead in their tracks.” He estimated that forty would slow them down a bit, causing heavy casualties, and twenty would bump up the number of Russian casualties a bit but not have much effect on the enemy outcome. I’m assuming from his statement that the four we are sending will only serve to piss them (the enemy) off.

The US is not the only nation helping out by sending medium-range rocket launching systems to Ukraine. The UK will send “a handful” of tracked M270 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to aid in the fight. The British contribution will be able to strike targets up to 50 miles out. If my math is correct, “a handful” plus four still gets the Ukrainians nowhere near the sixty units they say they need. Future requests will have to be considered.

The M270A1 MLRS at work in Iraq. Shoot and scoot. Video courtesy of YouTube and jaglavaksoldier.

The United States is open to the possibility of sending more rocket systems, but as of this writing, that decision has not been made. US Charman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, is meeting in France today with his international counterparts to discuss how best to support Ukrainian military operations in the future. Odds are Zelensky’s recent request for rockets will be brought up.