TechAmericans approve Ukrainian strikes on Russian border regions

Americans approve Ukrainian strikes on Russian border regions

Ukrainian M142 HIMARS in action.
Ukrainian M142 HIMARS in action.
Images source: © Getty Images | 2023 Global Images Ukraine

6:13 PM EDT, June 1, 2024

Americans have allowed Ukrainians to use their weapons to attack Russian targets in the border regions near Kharkiv. Here is what Ukrainians might use.

Americans have finally expressed - albeit limited - but approval for Ukrainians to use their weapons to attack targets on Russian territory. This is about the border area in the Kharkiv region. Ukrainians are prohibited from using ballistic missiles in this case, such as the MGM-140 ATACMS.

With other weapons, this problem does not exist, and photos have already appeared showing the remains of GMLRS rockets found near Belgorod. These are the basic equipment of the multi-launch rocket systems M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS.

GMLRS rockets - a well-known nightmare for Russians

Ukrainians were supposed to use GMLRS rockets with a caliber of 8.9 inches, which have a range of about 50 miles and come in several versions. These include the M31A1/A2 rockets with a "unitary" type warhead, the standard high-explosive M30A1 with the Alternative Warhead filling the area with a shower of tungsten balls, and the M30 with the Cluster Warhead containing hundreds of DPICM bomblets.

The first contains a 198-pound warhead with 51 pounds of TNT, making it well-suited for attacking fortified targets such as command points or buildings. It may not seem like much, but it's enough thanks to guidance based on a combination of inertial and satellite navigation.

It is worth noting, however, that the rockets' real effectiveness is lower since the Russians learned to jam the GPS signal. Inertial navigation is less precise than satellite navigation, and its error increases with distance. Therefore, we do not have as big a problem as with the GLSDB rocket, which has practically twice the range with the same firepower.

The second option is the M30A1 rocket with the Alternative Warhead, which explodes in the air and showers a significant area with a rain of 182,000 tungsten balls piercing bulletproof vests. These missiles are dedicated to destroying soft targets and were created to replace the controversial cluster munitions.

The M30 missiles seen in photos are an older solution from the 1990s and early 2000s, which were only produced for a short time and were replaced by the M30A1 variant. The M30 rockets were supposed to offer a range of more than 37 miles and carry 404 M85 DPICM (Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition) bomblets.

M85 charges weigh about 0.66 pounds and have enough power to penetrate tanks' upper armor (3.9-4.7 inches of steel armor) and a shrapnel-effective range of several yards. Despite their high effectiveness, the Americans stopped producing and using them due to their high dud rate, which poses problems even decades after a war.

In theory, the dud rate was not supposed to exceed 2 percent, but in reality, it was 5 percent or even 15 percent in extremely unfavorable conditions, such as a bomblet falling on muddy ground. The problem was supposed to be solved by Israeli IMI fuses with a self-destruct mechanism having a declared dud rate of below 1 percent, but they were too expensive ($15 instead of $5). Now it appears that these rockets have also reached Ukraine, which is making good use of them.

Russians vividly learned about the effectiveness of GMLRS rockets in the second half of 2022 in Ukraine, and now what seemed to be their safe rear logistics for the forces from the Kharkiv direction is being eliminated.

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