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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

What Happens if Ukraine Runs Out of HIMARS Rockets?

Soldiers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, fire a rocket from a M142 high mobility rocket system during a decisive action training environment exercise on Oct. 4, 2016 near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The unit certified four HIMARS operator crews as well as a contingent of forward observers during the exercise (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

You know by now that the war in Ukraine is an artillery duel. Not a day goes by without one side or the other bragging about the destruction that the last artillery bombardment has delivered. The real jewels for Ukraine and Russia are the multiple launch rocket systems that can deliver maximum pain to enemy soldiers and emplacements. The United States has gifted Ukraine the accurate and lethal M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that has proved its worth by destroying numerous Russian targets. But Ukraine is going through HIMARS’ guided rockets at a rapid pace, and it remains to be seen whether the Americans can keep up the supply and even have enough of the munitions for its own military uses.

Would HIMARS Run Out of Rockets in Ukraine?

Each HIMARS launcher costs $7 million and the United States has delivered or promised to send Ukraine 16 of the multiple launch rocket systems. The Ukrainians want even more – their wish list includes 100 HIMARS launchers. This would be 20 percent of the total allotments of HIMARS for the Army and Marine Corps. Even if the Ukrainians keep from 12 to 20 HIMARS in their arsenal, over the long-term they could run out of rockets.

Military Analysts Say Rocket Supplies Can Dwindle

Retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian is a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cancian told the War Zone on July 27, “As long as you only have 12 or 20 HIMARS systems, the [munitions] burn rate is not going to be a near-term problem. When you start getting more than that, and you start looking out three months, four months, I think at the end of four months, you may just run out.”

More Details on HIMARS

The wheeled HIMARS can travel 60 miles per hour on roads. The rockets have a range of up to 53 miles with an M31 200 pound warhead. The projectiles are GPS-guided making it an accurate munition. So far the Ukrainians have used it to mainly target Russian ammunition dumps and other supply facilities. HIMARS has also been used against at least one bridge that was critical for Russian re-supply efforts.

HIMARS is also a potent solution for counter-battery fire. Ukraine even claims that they have killed senior Russian officers in salvoes against military infrastructure. Russia’s higher ranking commanders are spending more time on the forward lines during the battle of Donbas. Ukrainian HIMARS strikes are making Russia pay the price against those senior commanders and the logistics facilities they oversee from nearby command posts.

Are the Supply of Rockets Sustainable?

But will the United States be able to supply enough of the rockets to Ukraine? Retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a military analyst for CNN, also believes the burn rate is high. Sixteen launchers with six round pods firing only two missions a day would go through 192 rockets every 24 hours and 5,800 rockets per month, Hertling said on Twitter. These guided rockets also cost $168,000 a piece so the Ukrainians are asking for an expensive launcher with pricey supplies. The U.S. Army purchased 50,000 guided multiple launch rockets in 2021. Giving Ukraine 5,000 per month would deplete its own stock.

It’s not clear how many guided rockets the United States has supplied Ukraine but this back of the envelope arithmetic shows that they will need a significant amount, especially if America sends dozens more launchers that the Ukrainians have asked for.

Russia Could Adjust Tactics

HIMARS may be making a difference now, but that could always change as Russia begins targeting the launchers with its own artillery and aircraft. One salient feature of HIMARS is the speed to which the soldiers can move after firing. Russian counter-battery fires do not often have a chance to hit the HIMARS before it quickly makes its escape to another position.

One thing the Russian military could do is destroy the vehicles that re-supply the rockets. This could endanger HIMARS launchers as they wait for new munitions to be delivered. The United States may have to limit the number of HIMARS donated to Ukraine due to the finite number of guided rockets it can provide. If that is the case, Ukraine may have to get by with only one or two fire missions a day. That may not be enough to turn the tide of this stalemate in Donbas.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. Error403

    July 30, 2022 at 2:59 am

    After running out of free-of-charge HIMARS munitions, zelenskly can always look forward to the huge stash of B61-12 munitions available in germany, turkey, italy and netherlands.

    The B61-12 repoetedly has the ability to allow end users like zelensky to program the size of its blast. As little as something not much bigger than a bull elephant’s fart to something like six times the explosion in hiroshima.

  2. Jacksonian Libertarian

    July 30, 2022 at 3:16 am

    Combat Power rule of thumb: 1 smart weapon = 500 dumb weapons

    Russian burn rate is 60,000 dumb rds/day = 120 smart missiles.

  3. Yrral

    July 30, 2022 at 4:40 am

    Ask not what Ukrainain can do for themselves,ask what you can do for Ukraine,the Biden administration ought to give Ukraine,the same tough he gave Afghanistan,the government of Ukraine,lack basis backbone,that most countries have,totally emotional dependant on other for their well being,having to be told by others to get their act together,and they wonder , why the are in the position they are ,shear corruption,like Afghanistan

  4. David Chang

    July 30, 2022 at 6:27 am

    God bless people in the world.

    If we can get victory and peace with this loan,
    people in the western pacific version of the Maginot line can do it too.

    God bless America.

  5. Yrral

    July 30, 2022 at 6:36 am

    Throwing good money after bad,these Himars are mostly for high valued target,the US use them sparingly, Ukrainain has no strategy objective ,unless they launch a ground offensive ,in no way will they liberate Kherson,they couldn’t even keep what they held in Donbas

  6. Friend

    July 30, 2022 at 7:03 am

    What happens is a lot less Russians left.

  7. Crazy one

    July 30, 2022 at 9:45 am

    Kill putin, Ukraine invade Russia kill Russians every kind level Kremlin and most enjoy everything while doing it yes I said enjoy! Whoopee, now don’t be wimps get to killing and destroying be fight dirty and lo down no good hee hee laughing all the way causing hell on Earth

  8. LMG

    July 30, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    Every Russian target destroyed today is one less problem tomorrow.

    I say give Ukraine all the rockets they need, and ramp up production.

  9. Yrral

    July 31, 2022 at 8:30 am

    LMG,and who will be paying the 160 thousands dollars per rockets ,this war will crater Ukraine by Christmas

  10. Michael Nunez

    July 31, 2022 at 10:17 am

    Just wondering how this is going to be paid for . Ukraine seems to be using them up like it’s all they have , Like a New Toy . American Tax Payers cannot be used like a ATM . Ukraine must be held accountable like anyone that has their hand out , like anyone that is Not Paying . These systems should be getting much better results, much better hits , but that is not the case . Way Too Many wasted firings of Himars is not the answer for Ukraine . Nothing is Free .

  11. Farkle A lut

    July 31, 2022 at 10:27 am

    Simple… Ukraine run out, U. S. top off, shoot them, collect them, and repeat. U.S. Never runs out of HiMARS.

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