The President Should Approve this last weapon system
and it will help win the war: M26/M26A1 HIMARS Rockets
By Dan Rice, President American University Kyiv
The United States can help Ukraine win the war with one final decision: Send the short to mid-range HIMARS cluster rockets in large quantities. We have tens of thousands of these rockets, and they are all being scheduled for destruction. They are obsolete. But they remain lethally effective.
I’m extremely proud that the United States finally passed over the threshold of sending cluster munitions, first on July 7 when President Biden agreed to send 155mm Howitzer shells. The 155mm howitzer it the primary diameter for all NATO heavy artillery so that was a big step forward. Then in October, the decision was made quietly to provide longer ranger cluster missiles, called ATACMS, M39 with a ranger of 165km and 950 submunitions. These are much larger missiles, come 1 per pod, and are rarer in the US arsenal. Unconfirmed sources claim that 20 ATACMs M39 had been delivered.
So we sent short range, 155mm howitzers, AND long range 165km ATACMs. But we failed to send the ‘workhorse” of the cluster family, the M26 series of rockets. These come in the same “pod” as an ATACMS but are smaller and narrower. 6 M26’s fit into the same pod that a MM39 ATACMS fits. There are two types of M26s- the M26 30 km range, 644 submunitions and the M26A1 45km range, 512 submunitions. They are all fired from HIMARS.
The most important point for these M26/M26A1 rockets is that we have hundreds of thousands of them. And they are all scheduled to be destroyed by Congress- so they have no value. This is the most lethal and cost-free arsenal in world history!
Once this decision is made, the execution is even more simple. The US and Ukrainian logistics system is working perfectly and smoothly. Even if we shipped 400 pods for the back of a HIMARS that would take a week. The HIMARS crews are the best in the world- no training necessary. There are roughly 200 Russian front line battalions. Living in trenches and out in the Open. In some areas that might be dug in better than others and in some cases be underground. Even in those cases most of their vehicles, gear, ammo, fuel and living quarters are still exposed.
Public data estimates Ukraine has around 50 HIMARS M142 or M270 Multiple Rocket Launchers (that is tracked and has two pods). They both fire the same rockets and missiles.
If 400 pods were shipped in that would be 2,400 rockets. For 200 Russian front-line battalions- that’s 12 rockets per battalion. We know from satellite images, drone reconnaissance, and other measures exactly where they are and their usual formations. A ten-rocket spread would take two minutes and decimate the battalion.
A Russian battalion might take up 500-1000 meters of front. They would likely be dug in zigzag trenches and be living a miserable life as winter approaches. But all their equipment can’t be buried. Their vehicles, tanks, armored vehicles, cannon, fuel, ammunition, food trucks, generators, porta potties, everything they need to live, is above ground. Usually, it’s hidden as best as possible in the tree lines. But the Russian artillery is set as far back as possible, it is this increased range for the M26A1 to be able to reach out 45 km as counter-battery fire, that makes this even more critical to Ukraine. Russian artillery is brutal, especially covering the minefields from far back. We need to give Ukraine the right tools to take out the Russian artillery and this is it.
The Russians have lost over 300,000 killed in action. Most of their best units have been destroyed. There are reports of Russians shooting retreating Russians. Blood is in short supply. Doctors are in short supply. Ukraine now has fire superiority for the first time in the war. Originally Russia was firing 63,000 artillery rounds per day vs Ukraine defending with only 4,000 rounds per day. Due to a series of factors, that trend has now reversed! Ukraine firing 9,000 per day versus 7,000 for the Russians. But most of the Ukrainian is cluster munitions, with 88 submunitions, so that is nearly 800,000 explosions within the Russian ranks. This has been a massive transformation for fire superiority.
When these rockets hit a Russian army unit it will be in total chaos. The rocket bursts in the air and the 644 submunitions spray over a circular area. These bomblets, the size of a D sized battery, fall to earth trailing a canvas trailer that helps keep the bomblet pointed down. As the bomblets hit, they explode downward and outward. Downward they fire a plasma burst that can destroy the thin skin of an armored vehicle, tank or cannon. Outward to destroy personnel or equipment. To cause secondary explosions by hitting fuel, ammo, canvas, weapons. The bursts also tear up the tree line and the trees become fragments themselves. All these explosions in the tree line often act as a defoliant and therefore allow Ukrainian drones to better identify Russian Armor or Pillboxes to have other direct weapons attack.
Now is the time to capitalize on this situation and to approve the last two rocket types needed to win the war: The M26 and M26A1 rockets for HIMARS. The US has tens of thousands of these, and again, they are scheduled to be destroyed. Send then to Ukraine until the war is over.