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Explained: What are the precision guided rocket systems being supplied to Ukraine?

The US and UK will supply to Ukraine precision multiple launch rocket systems. Why does Ukraine want these rocket systems, and how will they give the country an edge over Russia in the ongoing war?

The M270 MLRS being supplied to Ukraine by UK. (Source: Lockheed Martin)

Ukraine is set to receive the first delivery of precision multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) from the US and UK, after the civilian and military leadership of the country made urgent requests for the hardware.

Why does Ukraine want these rocket systems, and how will they give the country an edge over Russia in the ongoing war? The Indian Express explains.

Why does Ukraine urgently require MLRS?

The Russians have fielded artillery in great numbers in the war with Ukraine. The lack of precision of Russian artillery systems is offset by the huge numbers that it can deploy in the field. Lately, the Russian artillery has been wreaking havoc on Ukrainian troops in the eastern theatre of war, with artillery salvos of various kinds raining down on Ukrainian forward positions, causing heavy damage and restricting movement of personnel and materials.

In order to counter the Russian artillery onslaught, the Ukrainians need precision artillery weapons which can be used to degrade Russian firepower capabilities. Ukraine’s present artillery systems do not allow for a high degree of mobility and firepower which western MLRS can provide. Hence, Ukraine has urgently sought such rocket systems that can offset the Russian advantage at the earliest.

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When did Ukraine make the demand for MLRS?

The Ukrainian military has been appealing for the rocket systems for a while now. The US, however, was initially wary of supplying these rocket systems lest Russia escalate the conflict in retaliation.

In the first week of May, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for the MLRS at a virtual G-7 leaders’ summit. In his forceful appeal, he said his country needed the M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS rocket systems from the West.

Given the tactical and strategic situation in the war, the US and UK finally conceded to his demands and agreed to send the systems at the earliest.

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What are capabilities of the rocket systems being sent to Ukraine?

The UK has said it will send long-range M270 MLRS to Ukraine. This weapon system can fire 12 surface-to-surface rockets within a span of 60 seconds and hit targets as far away as 80 km. This range of firepower will be significantly more than what the Ukrainian artillery is currently capable of.

The M270 MLRS is a US-origin weapon system and has been used in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. It is a highly mobile automated system on a tracked platform which is operated by a three-member crew. As per the manufacture of the system, Lockheed Martin, the M270 can fire 12 Guided MLRS or Extended Range (ER) GMLRS rockets, four Precision Strike Missiles (PrSM) or two Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

The US, meanwhile, has committed to supply four M142 High Altitude Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Ukraine. The HIMARS  is a weapon system on a wheeled platform. It gives a very high degree of mobility to the weapons.

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The M142 HIMARS also provides for firing precision guided rockets which can degrade concentration of enemy artillery, armour or personnel as far away as 40 km. These can also be used to hit fuel and supply points, and field headquarters with high degree of precision. The shoot-and-scoot capabilities of the system help in protecting it against retaliatory fire by the enemy.

HIMARS has been used successfully in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

First published on: 07-06-2022 at 12:46:57 pm
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