Effectiveness of the Western MLRS against Russian Targets

I have already touched this topic here and here, but I will add some thoughts and speculations, since this issue had a recent development. To summarize the points Alexander Mercouris and his guest make, the US-supplied M142 HIMARS have apparently shown (according to Ukrainian sources) some good success in engaging Russian or allied targets.

Alexander is attributing this success to a novelty of the HIMARS and its rockets and missiles, and makes a suggestion that Russians will have to adapt in order to be able to intercept whose rockets and missiles as they do with the Uragan and Smerch rockets and Tochka-U missiles.

I previously made a point, arguing that from the point-of-view of the Russian air-defence systems, there is no difference at all, be it Soviet-era rocket of a modern Western-made GPS-guided GMLRS missile — they are all just a blip on a radar, and a piece of soft-skinned metal enveloping a warhead.

So why is this apparent success of HIMRAS attacks, compared to previous Soviet-era MLRS strikes?

I think the answer lies in the above-mentioned discussion with Alexander and Dima. One of the viewers mentioned the possibility of Americans providing targeting information for those systems.

Why it is important to the success of the strikes?

Well, the answer lies in the Russian countermeasures.

The Russians have two defences against MLRS:

  1. Air-defence systems capable of intercepting such missiles and rockets;
  2. Jamming equipment capable of

Both are limited to more important areas, such as ground troops formations and critical infrastructure. We know NATO have a lot of intelligence-gathering assets cruising just outside of the conflict zone. Those assets are able to locate “holes” in Russian air-defence and jammer coverage. If this data to be provided to Ukrainian crews of the MLRS systems in real-time, they could lead to a successful strike.

But this isn’t a sustainable tactics. Multiple air assets cannot be allocated to serve a few MLRS units just to strike an undefended target once in a while. It is a PR move, intended to reinforce the “wonder-weapon” narrative.

If so, my prediction is that we won’t see a lot of those successful strikes. Firstly because NATO cannot sustain this targeting effort just for PR reasons, and secondly because Russians will eventually develop some tactics or reinforce their air-defences in order to provide more coverage.

But it will have nothing to do with the Russians getting to know those mysterious HIMAR systems better. The only novelty here is the tactic used to exploit existing weakness in Russian air-defence deployment. And it will be a good lesson for Russians to learn their lesson for any future war.

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