US Army's HIMARS demonstrates tactical edge


In high demand globally, the HIMARS provides lethal, flexible and rapid support for multi-domain operations.

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US Marines fire a HIMARS during Exercise Rolling Thunder 21.2 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 26, 2021. [US Marine Corps]
US Marines fire a HIMARS during Exercise Rolling Thunder 21.2 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 26, 2021. [US Marine Corps]

Amid marked success in the defense of Ukraine, the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) has demonstrated the tactical edge US weapons systems provide.

The M142 HIMARS is a missile launcher mounted on a five-ton truck that can fire guided missiles in quick succession, providing high volume destructive, suppressive and counter-battery fire.

Weighing in at 16,200kg when fully combat loaded, the entire HIMARS can be transported by a C-17 Globemaster II or a C-130 Hercules.

The mobile aspect of HIMARS hinders adversary defenses. After launching missiles, the trucks can be quickly relocated.

A crew of three -- a commander, driver and gunner -- operate both the launcher and vehicle.

High demand

Global demand for HIMARS remains high. It is currently used by the United States, Singapore, Jordan, Romania, Poland, Ukraine and United Arab Emirates.

Future operators include Australia, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco and Taiwan.

HIMARS have seen combat in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The armaments most commonly used in Ukraine are Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) munitions, which can destroy targets up to 70km away.

GMLRS munitions have greater accuracy than ballistic rockets, with a higher probability of kill and a reduced logistics footprint.

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

Extended range

Some HIMARS can also launch Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, which have a range of up to 350km.

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.

HIMARS can also launch M26 rockets armed with 644 M77 dual purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) that burst at an optimum altitude and distance from the desired target. The M26 has a maximum range of 32-45km.

A six-pack of Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB) is also compatible with HIMARS and can reach a range of up to 150km.

The GLSDB combines the M26 rocket with the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), which was originally designed for aircraft. The blast and fragmentation of the SDB can cause significant damage to logistics outposts.

With the new Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), HIMARS will have a range of up to 500km.

The first set of PrSMs was delivered to the US Army last December to begin replacing the ATACMS.

The PrSM uses advanced propulsion to fly faster and farther than the ATACMS. It is also narrower, allowing HIMARS to carry two per pod.

Further technological advancements using ramjet propulsion could extend the range to 1,000km.

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