The ability to target and kill with precision from long distances on flat, open plains in Eastern Ukraine is what the Ukrainian forces say they most need.
“What's going on on the ground right now is a very artillery heavy, long-range fire heavy fighting in the Donbas,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, according to a transcript.
Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
Not surprisingly, the Pentagon is working intensely to get them for Ukrainian fighters. Several months ago, President Zelensky told CNN he wanted Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) among other things.
This request makes a lot of sense for a number of key reasons, a principle one being the need to attack and destroy Russian missile and rocket launchers. Many of Russia’s known rocket systems, which continue to kill civilians, wreak havoc and decimate entire communities operate with mobile launchers and could be tough to pinpoint and attack. Most of all, the launchers are simply too far away to be attacked at close range, given that many of the Russian rockets travel several hundreds of miles to their targets.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US continues to work with allies to respond to Ukrainian needs and put support packages together.
“As we work these packages, these weapons and systems that were sent to Ukraine, I mean, we're doing it mostly with an eye towards what does Ukraine need in the fight that they're in right now? And the -- and the consistent answer that we get back is they need long range fires, because the terrain in the Donbas region, that kind of fighting that they're doing is heavily reliant on that,” Kirby told reporters.
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Even most long range 155mm artillery such as that fired from a US M777 can’t reach longer than 30km or so, therefore long-range fires is the only way to attack Russian launch sites.
Russian air defenses might make it difficult for Ukrainian fighter planes to attack launchers from the air, so the best possibility to slow down, stop or destroy indiscriminate Russian rocket and missile attack from hundreds of miles away, apart from invading and occupying the territory, would be to destroy them at stand off ranges with precision fires.
High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS)
The US operates older MLRS as well as newer, precision-capable Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and truck-mounted mobile missiles systems called High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) which can travel several hundreds miles to a target. In the open areas where mechanized Russian units are likely advancing across the plains toward populated Ukrainian villages and targeting areas from hundreds of miles away, the optimal tactical approach may indeed pertain heavily to this need for long-range fires.
“The -- the reason you're not hearing about tanks and airplanes is -- is because that's -- I'm not saying they're not being used, don't get me wrong, it's just that the main need that the Ukrainians continue to stress is for long-range fires. And so, we've been working on and helping them get, you know, systems that help them with long range fires,” Kirby said.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.