Weapon Systems

Proven capabilities put HIMARS at top of world's artillery rocket systems


This precision strike rocket system can be easily loaded and offloaded onto aircraft and naval vessels, and its maneuverability inhibits the adversary's ability to locate and target the launchers.

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HIMARS in action during a training exercise. [US military]
HIMARS in action during a training exercise. [US military]

Superior accuracy, range, survivability, and deployment capability make the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) the world's top artillery rocket platform.

The M142 HIMARS is a missile launcher mounted on a five-tonne truck that can fire guided missiles in quick succession.

HIMARS' "shoot and scoot" capability -- or its ability to emplace, fire, relocate and reload in a matter of minutes -- dramatically reduces the adversary's ability to locate and target the launchers, enhancing crew and platform survivability in high threat environments.

There are now more than 540 HIMARS deployed worldwide.

US personnel load a HIMARS onto a C-17 cargo aircraft. [US Air Force]
US personnel load a HIMARS onto a C-17 cargo aircraft. [US Air Force]

The entire system, which is manned by three-person crew, can be transported easily aboard C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft for rapid deployment across the world.

US Marines are also trained to load HIMARS on various naval landing craft, which can deploy the systems on shore during expeditionary force missions.

Because of the versatility of the system, HIMARS can be fired from a variety of places, including from decks of ships.

In 2017, US Marines demonstrated this ability when they fired a volley of rockets from a HIMARS on the flight deck of amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage, destroying a target on an island 70km away.

Since that experiment, the use of HIMARS from ships has been part of the US military's planning.

"With these weapons on amphibious ships sitting off shore, Marines would be able to have on-call, precision artillery fire during an amphibious landing without having the launchers at increased risk on the beachhead itself or relying mainly on aircraft or attack helicopters for this type of support," Joseph Trevithick wrote in The Drive in 2019.

"Once the initial landing area is secure, the trucks can go ashore and continue to support the force as it moves further inland, [complementing] air support carriers and amphibious assault ships," he added.

Variety of armaments

HIMARS missiles can be directed precisely at targets, meaning they can be used sparingly and reliably.

They fly low enough and fast enough to make intercepting them with air defences challenging, and because the trucks are so mobile, HIMARS launchers are difficult to find and target.

HIMARS is most effective when used against stationary targets that can be identified in advance and pinpointed, such as ammunition dumps, infrastructure or troop concentrations.

"The secret to the rockets' precision is an inertial navigation system – a collection of gyroscopes and accelerometers -- that tells the rocket its exact location relative to its target, enabling a hit precision of three-to-five metres (10-16 feet) at maximum range," wrote Al Jazeera in 2022.

Equally important is the US intelligence network that provides coordinates to the gunner.

The system can be loaded with various types of armaments.

Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) munitions have greater accuracy than do ballistic rockets with a higher probability of kill and a reduced logistics footprint.

HIMARS launchers are able to hold six GMLRS munitions per pod.

Some HIMARS can also launch the Lockheed Martin-manufactured Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, which have up to a 350km range.

ATACMS carry 227kg warheads and have an updated targeting system, making them especially lethal to moving targets such as ships and mobile ballistic missile launchers.

In the future, HIMARS will have a range of up to 500km with the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM).

Still under development, the PrSM will use advanced propulsion to fly faster and farther than does the ATACMS while also being thinner and sleeker, increasing the number that HIMARS can carry to two per pod.

The PrSM is expected to achieve initial operational capability in 2023.

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