The United States has one of the world’s most sophisticated military powers. For years, the nation has developed weapons and defense systems that keep enemy attacks from reaching its borders as effectively as possible.
One of its advanced armaments is the M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), a multiple rocket launcher first designed in the late 1990s to be mounted on the US Army’s Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) M1140 truck frame.
Now, with some international allies facing conflict at present or at odds with a threatening neighbor, the United States has pledged to sell and deliver its HIMARS systems as part of its military aid.
But will it be effective outside its homeland and in defending foreign allies from airborne attacks? In this article, we will examine how the USA’s rocker artillery system changed the game for other nations to protect their skies and land.
HIMARS’s Capabilities and Power
The origin of HIMARS traces back to the 1980s when the US Army saw the need for a lightweight rocket and missile launcher as a counterfire asset. It wasn’t until 1996 when Lockheed Martin successfully created the first prototype, although the rocket launcher system wouldn’t be deployed officially until 2005.
After more than a decade of testing, refining, and overhauling, the newer models are equipped with the latest capabilities that make them a formidable force on the battlefield. Outlined below are some of the prime features of the M142 HIMARS:
- Weight – An empty unit weighs 13,517 kilograms while a loaded one weighs 16,238 kilograms, making it twice lighter than the MLRS M-270 launcher. It is worth mentioning that the more buoyant build of the HIMARS is due to it only bearing six rocket launchers, while the M-270 can bear up to 12. That said, this makes it easier to transport on military aircraft, such as the C-130, C-141, and C-5 planes.
- Versatility – This fighting machine is designed to bear interchangeable firearms, including those previously exclusive for M-270 launchers. Added to that, Lockheed Martin developed the system to connect to joint all-domain operations (JADO) effectively, enabling the US Army to be quicker, more united, and more decisive on the battlefield.
- Missiles and rockets – The entire unit can be loaded with other rocket or missile types from the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), and Lockheed Martin’s Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) series.
Another strong point of this weapon system’s versatility in carrying different missile types is that it provides extended ranges for its firing power. It can launch various munition types accurately within a range of 15 up to 500 kilometers.
- Firing Power – HIMARS can simultaneously launch six rockets with a firing power of nearly 100 miles within its firing radius. The rocket launcher system can also deploy its missiles with a single 1.7-ton projectile within a range of 300 kilometers.
- Precision – Designed with a precision-strike guided feature, it ensures all missiles launched reach and destroy identified enemy rockets; it can shoot with great accuracy of up to 70 kilometers.
HIMARS in Action
Now, with HIMARS’s exemplary performance on the front line, how does it change the warfare game for foreign allies?
Here are some of the countries that have seen the rocket artillery system’s power, and are determined to harness its might to deter threats, brace for upcoming conflicts, and enhance troops’ capabilities and readiness.
HIMARS has been seminal in Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia. Its exemplary performance was first witnessed at Donbas when it enabled Ukraine to drive off Russian forces by targetting Russia’s munition and armaments supply.
In June and July 2022, HIMARS demonstrated its superiority and might once again when it blocked the Russian offensive from reaching its base at the City of Kherson. George Barros, an analyst from the Institute of War, highlighted that this particular artillery system was key to liberating Kherson as it extended Ukraine’s capabilities to target and destroy the bridges leading to the city.
For more than a year, the system was highly effective and accurate in destroying fixed Russian targets and depositories. On the other hand, the rocket artillery system was found to be inconsequential in dealing with moving armaments and troops.
Now, with Russia successfully jamming some HIMARS rockets and developing a rocket artillery system that is said to rival the M142 HIMARS, the US continues to modify its rocket artillery arrangements to enhance Ukraine’s warfare capabilities and continue defending its borders from Russian breaches.
Since 2022, the United States has reportedly sent over 20 units to Ukraine units as part of its multi-billion dollar military aid.
The Philippines has been at odds with China due to the latter’s claim on the whole of the South China Sea. With the dispute potentially leading to a war, the Philippines seeks to procure HIMARS units and BrahMos anti-ship cruise missiles to fulfill the requirements of the Philippine Navy’s Shore-Based Missile System.
That said, as of August 2023, the US hasn’t approved any sales of the M142 HIMARS to the Philippines yet. On a brighter note, the Philippines has witnessed its performance and its role in helping troops defend Philippine borders.
On April 26, 2023, two HIMARS launchers were tested for shore-based firing as part of Balikatan troops’ training at San Antonio, Zambales. The rocket artillery systems were fired six times, although they reportedly missed their targets each time. However, a barrage from US and Philippine aircraft helped sink the simulation vessel.
According to Lt. Col. Nick Mannweiler, spokesperson for the Marine Corps Forces Pacific, that drawback wasn’t “a big deal,” underscoring that the rocket artillery system was designed to hit targets on land. He added that the firing test was part of a training session for troops to sense passing ships, identify if they’re enemies, and disseminate information to weapons operated in the Philippines and the US.
The United States Army continues to work on innovating its strategies and solutions to bolster defense methods and warfare readiness. Register here to be part of ExecutiveBiz’s Army Acquisition Priorities: Balancing Readiness and Modernization Forum.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much sales to international allies did the US Department of Defense approve for HIMARS?
In recent years, the US Department of Defense has approved sales of HIMARS to different international allies, totaling nearly $13 billion.
What other rocket artillery systems are similar to HIMARS?
The success of this system has inspired other military powers to design and engineer their rocket artillery systems that cater to their nation’s warfare needs and codes of conduct. Some of the rocket launcher structures similar to unit are:
- Israel’s Precise and Universal Launch System (PULS)
- GMARS, a German version of the HIMARS developed by Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall
- The Tornado-S multi-target rocket system
- Poland’s HOMAR, a multiple-launch rocket system to be developed by Lockheed Martin and the Armaments Agency of the Polish Ministry of National Defense
Which countries have procured HIMARS?
The other nations that have approved sales from HIMARS include Australia, Poland, Taiwan, and Latvia. These countries are currently testing their existing HIMARS units for future developments that will address their warfighting requirements.
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