Ukraine eyes American replacement for Soviet missiles
Kiev sees US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers as the best substitute for its Soviet-era Tochka-U missile systems, the head of intelligence at Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Kirill Budanov has said.
During an interview with the Washington Post on Sunday, Budanov pointed out that the Tochka-U currently remained the longest-range option in the Ukrainian military's arsenal. However, he complained that “very few of them are left” after five months of fighting with Russia.
Tochka-U (NATO name ‘SS-21 Scarab’) is a tactical ballistic missile platform, which has been around since the 1970s. It carries a single missile and has a range of 120 kilometers (75 miles). According to the Russian military, Kiev had some 40 Tochka-U launchers at the beginning of the conflict with Moscow.
But now the Ukrainian forces have HIMARS, which had been supplied to Kiev by the Americans, and “we’ll fight with these,” the intelligence chief said.
As of July 22, Kiev had received 16 high-mobility multiple rocket launchers from Washington. The HIMARS that have been provided have a range of 85 kilometers (53 miles). But the system can also be fitted with the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) munition, which make it capable of hitting targets up to 300 kilometers (almost 186 miles) away.
So far, the Biden administration has been reluctant to supply the Ukrainian military with ATACMS over concerns that they could be used for attacks on Russian territory, further escalating the conflict.
“If we get the longer-range [munitions for HIMARS], we’ll use those. And the Russians know that either way, it’s the end for them with these weapons,” Budanov insisted.
He also rejected Moscow’s claims that between July 5 and 20 its forces had blown up four of the US-supplied launchers in Ukraine. “We haven’t lost a single HIMARS, despite what the Russians have claimed,” he said.
On Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry also announced that it had destroyed a stockpile of ammunition for HIMARS and American-made M777 howitzers in western Ukraine.
During a visit to Kiev at the weekend, the head of the Armed Forces Committee of the US House of Representatives, Adam Smith, said that America and its allies plan to provide Ukraine with an additional 25-to-30 rocket systems, including both high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS).
However, even those supplies are unlikely to satisfy Kiev’s demands. Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov said last month that the country’s military would require 50 HIMARS to organize an effective defense, and a least 100 for “an effective counteroffensive.”