Four months from now, Ukraine may have fired 58% of US GMLRS rockets

WASHINGTON — The war in Ukraine could seriously affect the US stockpile of missiles for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. Several retired American soldiers have already issued a warning. The rate at which the US is supplying ammunition to Ukraine is worrisome.

American 227mm M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS strike in Donetsk region
Photo: Wikipedia

Currently, there are 16 HIMARS systems deployed in Ukraine. Kyiv expects four more, i.e. 20 systems in total. One system is loaded with six cartridge capsules. If each fired a full salvo twice a day, in one month Ukraine would fire 7,200 M30 or M31 missiles. According to official data, before the end of the 2021 fiscal year, the US had about 50,000 rockets available for HIMARS. However, they are part of the US Army inventory.

10 more M142s will be disastrous

A few days ago, the Ukrainian president asked the US to deploy at least 100 HIMARS missile systems. This is 20% of the US armament with this type of weapon. If we assume that Ukraine’s 20 missile systems fire 7,200 missiles per month, then at the end of the 4 months, Ukraine will have used nearly 29,000 missiles. This is 58% of the stockpile before the end of the fiscal year 2021. If Ukraine receives 10 more HIMARS missile systems in full daily use, all 30 systems will have fired 43,200 missiles in four months.

There is no official information on how many HIMARS missiles the Ukrainians launch per day. The calculations provided above should not be taken as a basis for concern, because they are considered without the unknown “Ukraine” and based on the full capacity of each system. I.e. Ukraine must load each of the deployed NIMARS at 100% for the figures to be correct.

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

It is because of all these concerns that the speed of providing weapons to Ukraine could seriously affect the stockpile of American weapons that Mark Hertling, retired soldier, and the American Battle Monuments Commission commissioner asked: “Smart planning consideration of our Department of Defense [& all the nations that are supplying MLRS] is this: How much risk do we take in giving UKR an exceedingly large # of our smart weapons? And…What if, in the near future, we face this or another enemy in a conflict?” he says in his tweet.

Hertling isn’t the only one worried. Mark F. Cancian says this: “As long as you only have 12 or 20 HIMARS systems, the [munitions] burn rate is not going to be a near-term problem. When you start getting more than that, and you start looking out three months, four months, I think at the end of four months, you may just run out.” Cancian worked at the Office of Management and Budget on Pentagon procurement programs and is now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

$168,000 per single GMLRS

The American online portal The Drive writes that next year the Pentagon will have to pay $168,000 for each GMLRS needed by HIMARS. At present, all of these missiles are taken from existing supplies. But since the beginning of the war, and especially since the beginning of the first delivered HIMARS to Ukraine, many times more GMLRS missiles have been delivered than can be produced.

Mark Hertling draws attention to something that seems to have become a common occurrence apparently in the US after settling in Europe – the opinion that Ukraine should be given, but without considering the seriousness of the situation. “I am also relatively sure those saying “Give UKR everything it wants” are also not considering several important US national security factors,” says Hertling.

Russia announced that it had destroyed two US-made HIMARS MRLs
Photo credit: Wikipedia

And last but not least, current and retired military personnel are not the only ones sounding the alarm about the possible depletion of US military stockpiles. The signal came only a few days ago. The General Accountability Office [GAO] released a report on the defense industrial base. In that report, the GAO concluded that despite years of effort, the Defense Department lacks the direction and insight to reduce the risk to the industrial base—in other words, the risk that the Pentagon will run out of bullets and weapons in a protracted, multi-front war.

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