Will HIMARS, the high precision missile system that US is sending to Ukraine, be a game-changer?
The United States announced on Tuesday (May 31) that it is sending advanced missile systems to Ukraine. The new weapon is the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system.
However, Russia accused the US of "adding fuel to the fire", claiming that such deliveries of weapons to Ukraine increase the risk of drawing the US into direct conflict with Russia.
Will it be a game-changer in the Russia-Ukraine war? Read details here:
The United States is sending new advanced missile systems and high precision US weapons to Ukraine, a US official said on Tuesday (May 31).
Senior US administration officials confirmed that US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, will be delivered to Ukraine.
"We will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine," US President Joe Biden wrote in The New York Times.
The US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems is known as HIMARS. It is a multiple launch rocket system, or MLRS - a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch multiple precision-guided missiles. HIMARS has superior range and precision.
The M142 Himars system (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) is a modernized, lighter and more agile wheel-mounted version of the track-mounted M270 MLRS developed in the 1970s for US and allied forces.
The GPS-guided missiles the HIMARS shoots from its six-pack pod have a range about double that of the M777 howitzers that the US recently supplied to Ukraine forces.
The range of HIMARS, that Ukraine is getting, is about 50 miles (80 kilometres). The official said that the HIMARS rockets "will enable the Ukrainians to more precisely strike targets on the battlefield from greater distance inside Ukraine and to help them repel Russia."
"These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory but they will not be used against Russia," the official noted.
Several experts have noted that there's a potential risk of a direct engagement between Russia and the United States. Importantly, the ammunition for the HIMARS will not include a version able to reach some 186 miles (300 kilometres), out of fear that the Ukrainians would use it to hit deep inside Russia.
They will instead get the version extending about 50 miles (80 km), which is still significantly further than the Ukrainians' present capabilities, the US official said. That means Ukraine's forces will be able to strike at Russian positions with the rockets from relative safety.
The "Ukrainians have given assurances they will not use these systems against Russian territory," the official stressed.
The official said that the HIMARS are the centrepiece of a $700 million package being unveiled Wednesday (June 1), also including air surveillance radars, more Javelin short-range anti-tank rockets, more artillery ammunition, helicopters, vehicles and spare parts.
Kremlin on Wednesday (June 1) accused Washington of "adding fuel to the fire". Russia said that such deliveries of weapons to Ukraine increase the risk of drawing the US into direct conflict with Russia.
Sergei Ryabkov, who is Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, told the RIA Novosti news agency that "any arms supplies that continue, are on the rise, increase the risks of such a development'".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also criticised the move as he told reporters: "We believe that the United States is adding fuel to the fire deliberately and on purpose."
"Such supplies" do not encourage Kyiv to resume peace talks, Peskov said, adding that Washington wanted to "fight Russia to the last Ukrainian."
Some analysts say HIMARS would be a "game-changer" in the war at a time when Ukraine forces appear to be struggling under Russian artillery fire.
But others say HIMARS will not suddenly turn the tables in the three-month-old war.
"The HIMARS would even the playing field," a senior US defence official said.
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