HIMARS giving Ukraine troops mental boost, scaring Russians: experts – Business Insider

  • Ukraine is now fighting Russia with HIMARS, long-range rocket systems sent by the US.
  • Ukraine says it’s killed a Russian general and destroying 50 Russian ammunition stores.
  • But the biggest benefit of HIMARS could be the psychological boost for Ukraine’s troops, experts said.

Ukraine has credited long-range rockets donated by the US with a series of gains against Russia, saying it recently used the systems to kill a Russian general and destroy 50 Russian ammunition depots.

But the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is also a significant piece of psychological warfare, experts told Insider.

HIMARS can shoot targets up to 50 miles away, so Ukraine can shoot from a safe distance — and move away before any counterattack.

High Mobility Artillery Rocket System HIMARS Sweden Gotland
A HIMARS in Sweden in October 2021.
US Army/Sgt. Patrik Orcutt

Experts said the psychological effects of the weapon could be one of its biggest boosts. 

Marina Miron, research fellow at the King’s College London Center for Military Ethics, said the West’s sending such advanced weapons gives Ukraine big mental boost — and hurts Russia’s soldiers in the same way.

She said HIMARS “kind of gives [Ukrainians] hope when they see it.”

It’s both harming Russian progress and could have a “psychological impact that it might be demoralizing at the very beginning for Russian soldiers,” she said.

Boosting Ukraine

At various points of the war, Ukraine had feared that support from the West would fall.

Sending HIMARS, therefore, “shows the dedication of Western countries to support Ukraine” even after months of fighting— and sends a “message to the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation,” Miron said.

She noted that Ukraine and the US were publicly announcing how many HIMARS were arriving, rather than trying to gain an advantage by surprising Russia.

She also noted HIMARS-related victories were being shared by Ukrainian leaders and media, and seen by soldiers who see it because they have internet.

Soldiers, she said, “have to be motivated somehow to stay out there because no matter how much you love your country the stress of being shelled by Russian artillery can certainly change people’s opinion.”

That kind of boost, she said, is likely more important to Ukraine’s army than the tactical benefits of any singular weapon.

Ukraine’s aim to retake every inch of its territory from Russia is likely a daunting prospect for soldiers who’d spent the last five months in a brutal fight, she said.

William Alberque, director of strategy, technology, and arms control at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, similarly called HIMARS “a huge psychological boost for the troops, for the people. It’s a huge symbol.”

He added Ukrainian officials, soldiers, and civilians were sharing videos of HIMARS with “pride.”

They’ve also shared graphics and images promoting the weapons, as with other Western weapons.

HIMARS — and footage of it in action — has “a real effect on the Ukrainian population who feels protected,” he said.

HIMARS has limits

That being said, experts and officials warn that HIMARS is not a wonder weapon.

Ukraine says it needs dozens of it, though the US has only committed to 16.

Miron also said Russia could eventually adapt to HIMARS, making it less useful for Ukraine — something that happened with some other Western weapons.

US M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers fire salvoes during the "African Lion" military exercise in the Grier Labouihi region in southeastern Morocco on June 9, 2021
A US HIMARS fired in southeastern Morocco on June 9, 2021.
FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images

But Alberque said HIMARS takes advantage of poor Russian tactics that would take years to properly adjust, making a Russian response more difficult.

The weapon also needs missile restocks and training for soldiers to use it, making it vulnerable.

A senior US defense official said last week that HIMARS was definitely boosting Ukraine, but: “HIMARS isn’t a silver bullet. We haven’t thought it was a silver bullet from the beginning.”

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HIMARS giving Ukraine troops mental boost, scaring Russians: experts – Business Insider

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