The Russian army hates the US-built M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System — or HIMARS — so much, its official spokespeople and many Russian-leaning social media accounts are making up stories about destroying them.
Nearly as soon as 12 US HIMAR systems began arriving in Ukraine, Russia began claiming to have destroyed them. That included a claim in early July to have destroyed two systems, another last week claiming to have destroyed four more, and at least one video propagated on social media that claims to show an airstrike on the advanced American systems, but that shows significant signs of fakery.
The video, posted to YouTube, briefly shows a green vehicle that could be a US-built HIMAR from overhead, but quickly cuts to a smoke plume from a different angle. No impact or explosion is seen on the video, which is dated July 16. Also as the video runs, a white “crosshair” floats, stationary and unchanging, over the center of the screen, even as the video cuts between several angles and possibly different locations — matching text added to the video but not with any technical visual cues on screen.
A senior US Defense official said Friday, July 22, that all of the HIMARS the US has sent to Ukraine are still operational.
“I think there was a report that the Russians had destroyed [some] HIMARS in Ukraine,” the official told reporters on Friday. “We do have indications that the [Russians] are trying to [target] HIMARS, but have not been able to take any out.”
Russian officials released another claim Monday, this time that Russian forces had destroyed a HIMARS ammunition dump.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said last week that the US has trained 200 Ukrainians on using the HIMARS system.
The US also announced Friday that four more of the systems would be sent to Ukraine in the latest round of so-called Presidential Drawdown Authority transfers, in which weapons and supplies already in the active military inventory are sent to Ukraine.
Along with the HIMARs, the drawdown and an additional aid package will include 580 additional Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aircraft systems, four command post vehicles, additional anti-armor weapons, spare parts, and other gear, and 36,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition, the Pentagon said.
Developed in a partnership between the US and other NATO countries and manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the HIMARS is a truck-mounted system that can launch up to a dozen long-range rockets at once. The rockets represent a major step up from regular cannon-based artillery. HIMARS rockets can travel farther — from 40 miles, up to 300 depending on the type — hit more accurately, and pack a larger punch than traditional artillery. Pentagon sources have said that the US is sending the shorter-range rockets, but even those represent a major increase in targeting distance over cannon artillery.
Reports from Ukraine since the HIMARS’ arrival in late June indicate that Ukrainians have been using the systems to target Russian command structures and ammo dumps, targets that Russian forces may have believed were beyond the reach of Ukrainian artillery.
Officials from both Ukraine and the US say the dozen HIMARS in Ukraine have had outsized effects on the battlefield.
Ukrainian officials claimed to have killed 12 senior officers including a general in a July 11 strike on Chornobaivka Airport. Though such claims are difficult to verify, a Russian release appeared to confirm the strike, claiming that just five officers had been killed. Either way, Chornobaivka had been a Russian hub for operations near Kherson, a coastal city on the Black Sea near occupied Crimea and Odesa.
A second HIMARS strike on July 12, reported by the Guardian newspaper, destroyed an ammo dump at Kherson.
Monday, Ukraine claimed HIMARS attacks had hit 50 Russian ammo dumps.