Ukraine received M30/M31 rockets with 51lb of PBX-109 high explosives

KYIV ($1=29.57 Ukrainian Hryvnias) — The delivery of four U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, means that Ukraine has access to GMLRS rockets that integrate relatively new technologies, are still in production, and are in active combat service in dozens of countries. These are the M30 and M31 rockets, which, according to The Drive, were delivered as ammunition to rocket systems.

Ukraine received M30/M31 rockets with 51lb of PBX-109 high explosives
Photo credit: Think Defence

There is a reason why the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation is worried about precisely this type of rocket. Russia has already announced that two of the four HIMARS delivered to Ukraine were destroyed in an airstrike on July 6th. Ukraine denied the claim, posting on social media that it was fake news and propaganda from the Russian side. “We emphasize that these messages do not correspond to reality and are nothing more than another Russian fake,” concluded the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine’s tweet.

The M30 is the older of the two rockets. For the first time, this missile was tested by the US in the late 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium. Its distinctive feature is that it has an integrated guidance system with IMU [Inertial Measurement Unit] and GPS receiver and has four small additional control fins in the nose. Its range is from 15 to 84 km, but missile experts say that these are the basic characteristics, and if the operator of the rocket system is forced to hit a target at a mini lane distance, it is best to have that target at 10 km, not 15 km.

The M30 carries a serious Alternative Warhead [AW]. This warhead was introduced at a later stage of the missile’s development and is also used in two other modifications: the M30A1 and M30A2. Case in point: Ukraine received an M30 with AW loaded with 404 DPICM M101 submunitions in the warhead. According to information from open sources, nearly 4,000 M30 rockets were produced in the period 2004 – 2009, after which the production of the M30 was stopped, but a new production was started – the M30A1, i.e. variant and updated version of the M30.

The other M31 rocket was approved by the US government for low-velocity initial production in 2003, and actual testing began in 2004. The M31 is also a variant of the M30, but there is a significant difference in its warhead. This rocket uses a 200 lb high-explosive unitary warhead and the operational range is exactly the same as that of the M30.

Ukraine received M30/M31 rockets with 51lb of PBX-109 high explosives
Photo credit: Think Defence

The M31 is the newer version of the two rockets delivered to Ukraine. The M31 entered production in 2005 and is manufactured by General Dynamics using a specific high explosive in the warhead structure: PBX-109. The munition’s designers placed the PBX-109 in a steel blast-fragmentation case in the M31 warhead.

PBX-109 or polymer-bonded explosive was invented in the middle of the last century in Los Angeles. The characteristic of this polymer is that it allows easy processing and is not sensitive to impact, i.e. absorbs shock, making the PBX very insensitive to accidental detonation and therefore ideal for insensitive ammunition.

With the acquisition of the four HIMARS, Ukraine will attack Russian positions with munitions that enable not only a precision strike but also to inflict heavy damage. Both [M30 and M31] have proven combat experience as they have registered participation through the two rocket systems M270 and HIMARS on the battlefields during the Persian Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, and Iraq War.

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