Over the past few months, Ukraine has deployed US-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to a deadly effect, striking Russian sites and arsenal far from the front line.
On the other hand, Moscow regularly asserted that it had destroyed HIMARS, but none of these claims have been independently verified. On September 1, many Twitter and Telegram accounts reported that Russia allegedly claimed to have destroyed 44 Ukrainian HIMARS.
These reports began to circulate in the media following the appearance of a map in the background behind Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov in the briefing, which stated: “44 HIMARS” in Russian.
⚡️The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has announced today at a briefing the destruction of 44 HIMARS out of 20 that are in service in Ukraine, – according to open sources. pic.twitter.com/GbY39eY7gl
— Flash (@Flash43191300) September 1, 2022
Internet users mocked this claim, pointing out that it’s roughly three times the number of launchers the US has officially delivered to Ukraine. The US has officially supplied 16 M142 High Mobility Rocket Systems to Ukraine.
The claim was first presented on September 1 by ‘Flash,’ a Twitter account with 47,400 followers that says it provides “information about the war in Ukraine without fake news 24/7.”
“The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has announced today at a briefing the destruction of 44 HIMARS out of 20 that are in service in Ukraine – according to open sources,” Flash tweeted.
The claims were reiterated on Twitter on September 2 by the account NEXTA, which boasts more than 990,000 followers and calls itself “the largest Eastern European media.” “Russia’s Ministry of Defense claims its force has destroyed 44 #HIMARS,” the account tweeted.
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) September 2, 2022
On August 30, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had intercepted 44 Ukrainian HIMARS rockets in southern Ukraine. The latest reports seem to have overlooked that the officials didn’t assert that they had directly struck any of the launchers.
In a press briefing, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said: “In the areas of the city of Kherson, Novaya Kakhovka, Kherson region, Antonovsky bridge and Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station, three Ukrainian Tochka-U ballistic missiles were intercepted in the air, as well as 53 projectiles of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). Including 44 – HIMARS, five ‘Alder’ and four ‘Hurricane.'”
The multiple missile launcher Vilkha, also known as the Alder Tree, was developed in Ukraine and entered service in 2018. The Ukrainian military still employs the Soviet-built BM-27 Uragan, sometimes known as the “Hurricane,” which was developed in the 1970s.
Ukraine Using HIMARS Decoy To Fool Russia
The Washington Post recently reported that Ukrainian forces had deceived their Russian adversaries into attacking several dummy HIMARS, mostly made of wood.
The report said that at least ten Russian Kalibr cruise missiles were lured to the decoy versions of US-supplied rocket launcher systems, prompting Ukraine to increase manufacturing HIMARS replicas to entice Moscow into launching its expensive long-range missiles on bogus targets.
A Kalibr missile costs approximately $1.2 million. In other words, Ukrainian decoys have pushed Russia to waste $12 million on cruise missiles that take months to produce, in addition to drawing attention away from the actual HIMARS.
HIMARS comprises an armored truck with six GPS-guided 227-millimeter rockets from Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS).
A 200-pound high-explosive payload is carried by each rocket, which can reach speeds above Mach 3 and have a range of 50 miles. GMLRS employs a GPS guidance system to land, usually nine feet or less from the target.
A senior Ukrainian official told the Washington Post that when Russian drones identify long-range artillery replicas, they treat them like VIP targets and send the locations of the targets to their naval cruise missiles.
Since the start of the fight, Russia has claimed multiple times about having destroyed several US-made missiles, including the long-range HIMARS. The US has deemed such claims to be “patently false.”
One American diplomat anonymously spoke to the Washington Post, saying, “They’ve claimed to have hit more HIMARS than we’ve even sent.”
Ukraine has hit Russian military stockpiles and supply lines using weapons supplied by the US. These attacks have slowed down Moscow’s operation in the eastern Donbas region.
The Ukrainian military appears to have made some progress this week toward Kherson, and reports suggest a full-scale counteroffensive may already be underway.