The US secretly put limitations on its HIMARS rocket launchers before letting Ukraine have them, report says

The US secretly put limitations on its HIMARS rocket launchers before letting Ukraine have them, report says
A High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) is pictured during military exercise in Skede, Latvia, on September 26, 2022.Photo by GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP via Getty Images
  • The US modified HIMARS rocket launchers it sent to Ukraine, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • HIMARS have proved to be one of the most important weapons in Ukraine's fight against Russia.

The US secretly modified its HIMARS rocket launchers before sending them to the Ukrainian military, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

US officials told the outlet that changes left the launchers incapable of firing long-range ammunition, including the US Army Tactical Missile System rockets (ATACMS), which have a range of nearly 200 miles.

Per the report, the US was concerned that even if it did not give Ukraine any ATACMS itself, it may acquire long-range projectiles from elsewhere.

Instead, the launchers work with shorter-range munitions that can strike Russian forces occupying Ukrainian territory, but not reach far into Russia itself.

The US has repeatedly expressed reluctance to give Ukraine weapons that it thinks could lead to the war escalating, rejecting Ukrainian arguments that they need every possible tool to repel the invasion.


"If Washington decides to supply longer-range missiles to Kyiv, then it will be crossing a red line and will become a direct party to the conflict," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in September, according to Reuters.

Since June, the US has supplied Ukraine with at least 20 HIMARS launchers. In September it was reported that a new $1.1 billion US weapons package would more than double the number operating in the country.

The high-precision rocket launchers have been a crucial addition to Ukraine's arsenal, enabling it to strike distant Russian positions and then move out of the way fast enough to avoid retaliation.

In early November a defense official told Politico that Russia had failed to destroy a single HIMARS launcher since the conflict began.

Rockets fired from HIMARS have been used to strike Russian ammunition depots, logistics supplies and command centers on Ukrainian territory, according to the Journal. The weapons have developed a fearsome reputation in Russia.


The Pentagon, White House and Ukrainian military declined to comment on the modifications, according to the publication.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been pushing the Biden administration to provide Ukraine with a fleet of advanced, MQ-1C "Gray Eagle" drones that would significantly increase the lethality of the country's armed forces. Each drone is able to carry four Hellfire missiles.

The Biden administration has so far proved reluctant to provide the weapons, according to an earlier report by The Wall Street Journal, over fears that sensitive technology could end up in the hands of US adversaries.