NewsUkrainian HIMARS attacks wreak havoc on Russian supply lines in Belgorod

Ukrainian HIMARS attacks wreak havoc on Russian supply lines in Belgorod

Spent packages from M142 HIMARS systems operating north of Kharkiv.
Spent packages from M142 HIMARS systems operating north of Kharkiv.
Images source: © X (dawniej Twitter) | OSINTdefender

5:39 AM EDT, June 3, 2024

Ukrainians are conducting intense shelling of Russian targets in the Belgorod region using M142 HIMARS multiple rocket launchers. Let's revisit the performance of this system.

A photo circulating online shows dozens of used packs from GMLRS missiles (each holding six) used in M142 HIMARS or M270 MLRS systems. These empty packs, reportedly found in a now-unused reloading location, are said to result from the recent days of work by Ukrainian launchers north of Kharkiv.

The systems allow for targeting logistics that supply Russian forces in regions such as Vovchansk or the village of Starytsya, which recently experienced a large assault.

M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS systems – a scourge on Russian logistics

Both systems use GMLRS missiles with a range of up to about 50 miles, available in several versions. According to Russian sources, Ukrainians are attacking targets with two salvos. The first salvo includes missiles with a classic high-explosive fragmentation warhead, known as "unitary," and the second features cluster warhead variants.

This strategy aims to maximize losses. After an initial attack seems to conclude, more soldiers typically appear on the scene to minimize damage. At that point, cluster warhead missiles target the area.

This indicates the use of a tandem of M31A1/A2 and M30 rockets. The M31A1/A2 rockets contain a 200-pound warhead with 51 pounds of TNT, capable of causing significant damage at the target site. For instance, these rockets can damage a building and its ammunition crates. Then, M30 rockets follow up on these exposed targets.

M30 rockets contain 404 M85 DPICM (Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition) bomblets. This design allows for hitting a large area with M85 bomblets, each weighing about 0.7 pounds. These bomblets can penetrate armor up to 4-5 inches thick and have a fragmentation radius of several meters.

For instance, the fall of such bomblets in an area with exposed but undetonated artillery shells can be disastrous. It is worth noting that Americans produced M30 missiles for only a few years before replacing them with the less controversial M30A1 with Alternative-Warhead missiles. This change was due to cluster munitions' high dud rate, which posed long-term post-war problems.

All GMLRS family rockets are equipped with guidance systems based on inertial and satellite navigation. This is a simple and effective method for achieving accuracy within a few meters, though not without flaws.

If the opponent can jam the GPS signal, as the Russians can, the accuracy decreases and worsens with distance. This is because inertial navigation always has an error margin that accumulates over time and distance.

The problem is not as severe for distances of tens of miles, as the warhead of GMLRS missiles is powerful enough even if it misses by a few meters. However, the issue becomes more pronounced for GLSDB missiles, which have twice the range and identical destructive power.

Related content