Joe Biden announced that the United States will send advanced missile systems to Ukraine. This is the Himars Multiple Launch Rocket System: a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch multiple high-precision missiles.
Both Ukraine and Russia already use MLRS, but Himars has greater range and accuracy.
The Himars M142 (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) is an upgraded, lighter and more maneuverable wheeled version of the M270 tracked MLRS developed in the 1970s for the United States and its allies. The Himars systems that Washington is providing to Ukraine will have a range of about 80 km, a US official told reporters.
Himars units carry one pre-loaded canister with six 227mm guided missiles, or one large canister of 300km-range ATACMS tactical missiles, but the U.S. won't be supplying those to Ukraine.
With a small crew, Himars can extract a spent capsule in minutes and load a new one without the help of other vehicles, however, this will require special training of Ukrainian crews.
The US military already has Himars units in Europe; their NATO allies Poland and Romania have acquired such systems.
The GPS-guided missiles fired by Himars have a range of about twice that of the M777 howitzers the US recently supplied to the Ukrainian army.
At a distance of about 80 km, Himars is usually out of range of front-line artillery, but can bombard enemy batteries. They can also strike at supply depots, disrupting the logistics system.
Some analysts say that Himars could change the picture of the fighting, but others believe that Himars will not change the situation overnight. "Himars will level the playing field," a senior US Department of Defense official said.
However, the US plans to limit the range of the missiles it gives to Ukraine to avoid using them to hit targets inside Russia.
“We are not going to send missile systems to Ukraine that could strike Russia”, - Biden said. Since Russia's February 24 invasion, the US has been wary of any move in support of Kyiv that could provoke Moscow into continuing the war outside of Ukraine. This includes not openly supporting Ukrainian strikes on Russian soil. On several occasions, Ukraine has used its own missiles, drones and helicopters to hit nearby Russian targets in the Kursk and Belgorod regions.
If the United States provided ATACMS tactical missiles (hitting at 300 km), the Ukrainians would theoretically be able to strike at large Russian cities and military bases, including airfields from where strikes are launched against Ukraine.
“Ukrainians have assured that they will not use Himars systems against Russian territory”, - a US official said.