Saturday July 16, 2022 · 6:00 PM CEST
HIMARS O’clock Theater has become a fan favorite with those backing Ukraine against Russia’s murderous hordes. There’s very little more satisfying than seeing Russia’s weapons of death and destruction go up in fire and smoke, deep inside their lines. Meanwhile, after long dismissing the potential of HIMARS to significantly affect the trajectory of the war, there is now fear, outrage, and grudging respect from Russian bloggers covering the war. Let’s take a look:
Military Informant, a Russian milblogger with over 400,000 followers on Telegram, uses the word “panic.” (Run through Google translate)
If the information about the supply of tactical missiles with a range of up to 300 km to Ukraine is correct, and is not a “canard” of American publications, then this is not just a reason for panic, this is a reason to radically reconsider the entire approach to current hostilities. Air defense and missile defense, of course, in theory can hit these ammunition, however, what do we have now? Daily combined attacks on Russian bases and warehouses using GMLRS and Tochka-U missiles to a depth of 80-120 km, which are often not reflected. For starters, the existing problem with long-range enemy weapons has not been resolved in the Russian army, and new missiles will only expand the range of targets hit by the enemy, as was rightly said, up to the capitals of the border regions.
Relying on air defense and missile defense in this situation is initially a losing tactic. First, as we are already seeing, even at a depth of 120 km, far from all missiles are shot down, which cause significant damage to the logistical capabilities of the army. Secondly, for a real threat relief, it is necessary to find and destroy launchers, and not try to draw water with a sieve, catching missiles already fired on their own. But these are already questions for intelligence, aviation, their work in cooperation, as well as for special forces units – for example, in Soviet times, one of the key tasks of the GRU was to search for and destroy American medium- and short-range missiles, which was successfully abandoned in modern Russia, and the new not developed.
Guided MLRS rockets have much shorter air time (around 90 seconds at max distance) than ATACMS would (around six minutes at range). Few air defenses will properly protect against regular MLRS rockets. But ATACMS should be vulnerable, not just because of air time, but because only 1-2 can be launched per vehicle (depending on whether it’s HIMARS or M270 MLRS), and each rocket is a much bigger target. (Remember, one pod carries either six GMLRS, or one ATACMS.)
That said, Russia has shown zero ability to hunt and destroy HIMARS. Ukraine operates them at night, when Russia’s crappy drones are blind. And the launchers are long gone before counter-battery can find and target them.
Interestingly, back in my day we assumed Soviet spies would track our movements from barracks to deployed positions during an outbreak of war. (In case you don’t know, my job in the Army was fire direction for an MLRS battery in Germany, supporting a cavalry unit patrolling the Czechoslovakian border.) Never knew if it was true or bullshit rumors, but this guy seems to think that was actually the case.
Igor Girkin, indicted war criminal and former commander of the Donbas armies in the 2014 war:
HIMARS – the enemy created a strike force using HIMARS, safely shells ammo depots, command points, air defence. How to fight them given that in August Ukraine will receive 300-500km long-range missiles allowing strikes into rears similar to ones Russia is conducting?
Current losses are due to Russia’s own lack of camouflage, dispersion, disinformation and other elements that prevent strikes.
Death of the commander of the 20th motor rifle division – all command is gone, and at Bryanka daily at 6pm there was a meeting for weeks which led to strikes. What lead to it? Again, lack of even the basic disguise tools. Upon the request to the Ministry of Defence regarding switching the economy into the special (war) mode, the answer came back, without any technical details, saying that this is purely a prerogative of the President Putin.
Everyone is assuming Ukraine will get the long-range ATACMS rockets, yet none of that has been announced, or even hinted at, by the American side. Could be wishful thinking from Ukrainians, and worst-case scenario planning by the Russians, but who knows. Would be great to push Russian supply depots even further away from the front lines, though ATACMS would undoubtedly be more vulnerable to Russian air defenses, and at $1 million per rocket, they make the regular guided MLRS rockets at $130,000 seem like a bargain. Even then, the issue might be less the cost, and more the fact that not that many ATACMS were ever produced (only around 50,000, and many delivered to buyers who aren’t supplying Ukraine, or wouldn’t give up their expensive-to-replace rockets).
We hear from Yanina, says the Russian army is run by morons, the same as the country’s civilian leadership.
I haven’t looked on the Internet yet, where exactly, but, apparently, in Stakhanov, last night, the Armed Forces of Ukraine covered another warehouse of artillery ammunition of the RF Armed Forces. What is the account there? Sixth or seventh after the Red Ray? As it began to burst at two in the morning without a trifle, it burst until everything exploded around four in the morning.
With a glow and other delights […]
Despite the absence of any military secrecy around the supply of modern foreign long-range artillery and MLRS to Ukraine, continue to concentrate artillery ammunition on large, unsuitable for their storage, industrial facilities in the zone of confident reach of enemy missiles and artillery. Lose one by one all these warehouses. As a result – to lose the opportunity to attack normally, at least in the way that they attacked before. To create out of the blue a wild “shell hunger” in conditions when the enemy had just received and mastered new foreign artillery systems and MLRS.
I know that our army is led by a bunch of untrained morons. Stupidly vile, miserable, vindictive, petty, thieving, herdish, gathering in big “army mafias”, bringing “tithe” of their income to the very top. Just stupid stupid thieves. Like the civilian leadership of the country, the difference is small.
In case you need the refresher, this was the Stakhanov attack:
The depot cooked off for days. Reading this, you might think, “how the hell is this Russian blogger not thrown off a balcony”? Dmitri of War Translated suggests it’s because their “critique becomes an alternative to the victorious propaganda which can be fed to the TV-watching zombies but doesn’t work for the layers of the Russian society that are resistant to it.” In other words, the milbloggers’ critiques are a sort of pressure valve for Russians who can use the internet and see the “special operation” isn’t going so well. A group of milbloggers actually met with Vladimir Putin himself recently. They serve a role.
Here are more examples rounded up at the site War Translated:
Dimitriyev, with over 100,000 followers on Telegram:
There’s a following problem with HIMARS: there is an assumption that the Russian air defence will become its target following warehouses and headquarters. The operational reach allows you to identify the location *of air defence* and strike it. And what happens when air defence loses its capabilities and cannot cover the territory? It will be possible to attack with long-range ballistic missiles, such as ATAC, which are not yet (YET!) supplied to Ukraine.
Boy are they pissing their pants at the thought of ATACMS arriving, huh? And he doesn’t even note the best benefit of taking out Russian air defenses (which is already happening): TB2 Bayraktar drones and the Ukrainian Air Force can better support counteroffensive operations.
Here is Russian “military expert” Khatylyev cited by Russian news outlet RIA Novosti, on the HIMARS strike on Nova Kakhova:
According to Khatylev, it is still too early to draw conclusions, but one thing is possible to say for sure: the strike was prepared in advance. Three days before this a group of American satellites was discovered over Nova Kakhovka, which recorded “the coordinates of the troops, their condition and other parameters.” “We don’t know if HIMARS was used there or not. Today it is possible only to say that the strike was carried out multidimensionally, and was prepared in advance, ”- military expert said […]
“UAF will not fire like this anymore, and we will be 100% ready for this. How to reflect, where to reflect and how to discover *the missiles*. The means of attack have changed, time will pass, we will be ready to adapt to them – this is called combat experience”, Khatylev noted. The colonel in the reserve also named the parameters which the army needs to work on to stop missiles firing from 300 and 500 kilometer distance. According to Khatylev, it is necessary to analyze the situation, bring the combat alert system to a state of readiness – this will allow open fire in a few minutes. Also, all types of troops will have to consolidate and operate under common management. This set of measures will prevent and repel such strikes in the future.
Reminder, that was this attack:
So first of all, no, three American satellites didn’t hover over Nova Kakhova to look for Russian troops. That’s not how Satellites work. They orbit. Second of all, there was no need for satellites, as other milbloggers point out, Russia didn’t bother concealing these depots, thinking them safe. They’re located close to railheads, and drones can track back supply trucks to and from their supply sources. Finally, Kherson Oblast has an active partisan and sympathetic civilian base to track such matters. There is literally a phone app civilians can use to report troop movements and locations. And thirdly, there have been more attacks like this since. This wasn’t a one-off, despite the fanciful claims by this “analyst.”
Of all the HIMARS attacks, the Nova Kakhova one generated real angst. Here’s some additional reactions also aggregated by War Translated:
Novorissiya Militia Summaries, with 300,000 Telegram followers:
I just received a message about an attack on our beautiful and peaceful Nova Kakhovka. They used the American HIMARS.
What does it mean? The Americans actually went to war with Russia. They are fighting on territory that is actually already Russian.
Why? I answer: Over 10 thousand residents of the Kherson region have already received Russian passports.
This means today’s murders in Nova Kakhovka, sabotage in Kherson – this is murder of the Russians on their land.
It is still difficult for me to predict how the confrontation between the two superpowers will end, but I can say for sure: we are on our own land! Referendum will be!
We will be able to build a Russian paradise instead of a Ukrainian hell!
Each arrival is another point of no return!
Imagine thinking Russia is a “paradise.”
Starshe Eddy, with over 400,000 followers on Telegram:
Judging by the accuracy of the hit, this is most likely HIMARS. The Armed Forces of Ukraine received powerful high-precision weapons, which are being competently used. I have written more than once on this and I don’t want to set the teeth on edge with my moralising, but I’ll repeat it anyway. A fight against these systems must take form, first of all, in the dispersal of command posts, headquarters and warehouses, as well as the destruction of the transport infrastructure that allows the transfer of these weapons to the left bank of the Dnieper.
Military Observer, again, says “good luck” to dispersing command posts, warehouses, and other logistical infrastructure:
It is simply impossible to “disperse” headquarters while having a highly centralised command system with archaic communications. The dispersal of the caches is possible, but for this the loading-unloading of ammunitions must be simplified enormously and automated, which we have already spoken about, but the process is still based on manual labour and basic wooden boxes.
Therefore, a whole range of preparatory measures must be made in advance, which in current conditions will take years, months at best, so it’s too late now.
The physical destruction of such rockets demands an advanced reconnaissance system, primarily aviation, but also control over the battlefield at least a few dozen kilometers deep, which is impossible without a high number of AWACS aircraft which we don’t have, which allows just 4-8 systems to freely manoeuvre from Kharkiv to Kherson and conduct successful fire pressure.
A lot could be said, but in the current situation we will not see a universal and fast solution to this problem.
AWACS are “airborne warning and control system,” which is a staple of Western military doctrine. In fact, there are several NATO (and Swedish) AWACS planes flying around Ukraine at all times, listening in to Russian communications and using fancy gear to pinpoint the location of high value targets—like say, the location of command posts, or the Moskva before it was sunk.
Crazy that Russia doesn’t have AWACS capability. China certainly does, as do small countries like Finland. But Russia, self-styler global superpower, has no way to keep an electronic eye over the battlefield. Also unfathomable that Russia doesn’t have air superiority over Ukraine. Russia is supposed to have over 4,000 combat aircraft, yet perhaps we’ve seen a few dozen.
I often hear people surprised by the inability of the Russian command to adapt to new challenges – high-precision weapons or long-range artillery systems. It is necessary, for example, to disperse the equipment over different forests, move headquarters deep into the territory, and place ammunitions in different locations. But that doesn’t happen. Why?
I recently heard the story of one soldier. He says they heard about HIMARS, we are digging shelters. Suitable senior officer:
“What are you doing?”
“Ah, you pussied out?”
Meanwhile, we’re seeing less dramatic weapons depots go up in smoke. Ukraine has hit over two dozen of them in the last several weeks, and is moving on to less dramatic targets—command and control (C2) and air defenses.
Also, I’ve written before about the maintenance challenges of fielding MLRS systems. I’d factor in significant downtime, especially for the M270s once they’re fully operational. (The first ones have just arrived in Ukraine.)
And while it’s nice to see Russians fretting about HIMARS, what’s really important is the effect it has on the war. We know Russian advances have slowed to a crawl, and that FIRMS satellite data shows dramatically lower artillery fires. This confirms all that:
Ironically, after a week of low fires on NASA’s satellite imagery, today it’s looking pretty intense across the entire front. I’ll be looking later to see how much of it is falling on Ukraine’s side of the front lines.
When I started Daily Kos, I had no kids. Now my oldest, Ari, is at Ft. Benning doing advanced infantry training. Here he is on the right, obviously thrilled to have his first day pass—and most importantly, access to his phone.
After graduation, he’ll be doing pre-ranger schools, as he’s hell-bent on getting Ranger tab.
The propaganda/psyops value of HIMARS cannot be overstated. It’s clearly a huge morale boost for the Ukrainian side.