US retrieves two damaged HIMARS rocket systems for swift repairs

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Recent social media posts feature images and videos of two slightly damaged HIMARS being shipped back to the U.S. for repairs. 

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

This weapon played a crucial role in pushing Russia to strategically retreat from a part of Kherson in November 2022. This occurred when Ukraine began specifically targeting Moscow’s supply networks and logistic bases situated far from the main conflict area. 

However, since that time, these weapons haven’t been featured regularly in military videos. Meanwhile, Russia has started to report an uptick in the number of intercepted and destroyed HIMARS rockets. This is courtesy of their BUK and Tor surface-to-air missiles.

Photo credit: Twitter

‘HIMARS escapes Russian attack’ 

In an unexpected development, claims from Russia about the destruction of the HIMARS launchers have been disputed. Reports indicate that all 39 systems are still fully operational.  

The HIMARS crews implemented a secret strategy to keep the systems safe. They executed complex movements and regularly repositioned immediately after launching their rockets. As a result, Russian artillery and air defense systems experienced difficulty in pinpointing the HIMARS’ exact location to plan their attacks.  

Photo credit: Wikipedia

An analysis by Forbes states, “The HIMARS that Ukraine possesses is inflicting substantial complications for the Russian intruders. For instance, these mobile launchers were used to decimate three Russian howitzers, four rocket launchers, and an air-defense vehicle.”  

However, photos and videos depicting damage tell another story. These images reveal that, while the system has a significant impact on the battlefield, it also has vulnerabilities independent of its rocket capabilities.


In a recent post on X [the new Twitter], the user ‘WarVehicleTracker’ shared a photo of a HIMARS fire vehicle being prepared for air freight. 

The post reads, “For the first time, we’re seeing a US-supplied M142 HIMARs MLRS being packed into an An-124 Ruslan plane. Interestingly, the vehicle seems to have suffered shrapnel damage, despite not being hit directly. It’s heading back to the US for repairs.” 

A further post from the same user delves deeper into the situation. It showcases two HIMARS vehicles that seem to be inspecting the ‘shrapnel damage’ on the first HIMARS. Evidence of small but definitive dents on the rear right segment of the rocket holder box and the noticeable hits on the window can be viewed clearly. 

Photo credit: Twitter

“The second HIMARS appears to have damage on its left tire, rear cabin, PSU, and HULIU panels,” the post continues. [Although it looks like the damage is on the right tire and wheel, which is likely a typing error]. 

An extended video shows the An-124 touching down at Harrisburg’s airport in Pennsylvania, and unloading the two HIMARS. One is moved to the back of a non-military truck from the plane’s rear cargo area before being driven away. Intriguingly, the area near the cockpit ‘folds up’ to reveal another loading entry—a feature particular to the An-124 and similar aircraft like the US’s own C-5 Galaxy. 

A separate truck waits near the back hold while the second damaged HIMARS is delicately lowered onto it with pulley ropes. It’s significant to mention that three military vehicles—two trucks and a HUMVEE—are observed entering the An-124 through the forward ramp, likely transporting other military goods. 


Humvee too

Also loaded into the An-124 are a HUMVEE and a civilian crane. As soon as everything is secured, the aircraft shuts its front part and prepares to depart. The destination of these military goods isn’t clear, potentially heading to Ukraine or another European country. 

If these HIMARS are indeed returning to Ukraine for repairs, it’s vital to acknowledge that even if they are still functional, their removal from the battlefield during repair is a loss, as two fewer trucks are available when needed. 

In conclusion, it’s noteworthy that Kyiv does not manufacture these rocket artillery systems. The launchers, along with the M30 and M31 rockets, are acquired from existing US Army reserves. This puts additional pressure on the US defense industry, which is already stretched thin trying to ramp up production to reestablish supplies sent to Ukraine.

HIMARS vs Russian installations 

On February 12, Ukraine publicly shared a video. This video depicted a HIMARS from their 14th Regiment completely destroying a Russian Buk air defense system. According to the Ukrainians, this was accomplished using precise ‘fire adjustment’

Another video was shared by the ‘Ukrainian Front’, in which they claimed to have struck a Russian 4320 Ural truck and two Kamaz 5350 ‘Mustang’ vehicles in the village of Radensk, located in the Kherson region. 

Two more videos were released during the same month, showing the HIMARS in action, albeit without any identifiable targets. A news clip by United24— a Ukrainian government-supported media platform, offers a glimpse inside a Ukrainian HIMARS unit. 

The reporter asserts that the M142 HIMARS has had a substantial impact on the ongoing war in Ukraine and continues to strike important targets. 

They also refuted the claims made by Russian media about the total destruction of the HIMARS systems, stating, “Not a single HIMARS system has been obliterated, thanks to their rapid movement.” This statement substantiates the efficacy of the HIMARS ‘shoot and disappear’ technique, a prevalent strategy used by Ukraine’s troops.   

More UAVs

With the development and procurement of more Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAVs] — including those donated by the US and Europe — it is probable that many are being used for target identification and surveillance. This observation could take multiple days or even weeks. When the time is right, rockets are launched. 

Despite their initial use in 2022 to target and destroy key strategic sites such as ammunition depots, supply routes, and command centers deep within Russian frontlines, it appears that HIMARS is no longer being utilized in this manner. 

A lingering question is whether these recent attacks with HIMARS were part of larger ground operations or isolated strikes. This would necessitate verifying whether other Ukrainian forces, including the air force or UAVs, launched follow-up attacks after a HIMARS assault. If so, they might have one less frontline Russian target to contend with.


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