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Video Above: Pentagon Sends Critical MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Ukraine

By Kris Osborn - President, Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization

(Washington, D.C.) Ukrainian use of precision-guided, land-fired rockets able to travel as far as 70km appears to be a key reason why Russia is making little to no progress in the Eastern part of the country.

Russia Ukraine War - GMLRS Rockets

Prior to the arrival of these GPS-Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, able to hit enemy targets with great precision at more than twice the range of most conventional artillery, Ukrainians appeared unable to stop or even slow down longer-range Russian missile and rocket attacks into civilian areas of Ukraine. Conventional artillery such as 155mm rounds fired from one of the many M777 Howitzers sent to Ukraine can travel roughly 30km, making it difficult for Ukrainians to attack Russian launch sites from safer stand-off distances or possible hit fire bases, supply areas and mobile launchers on the Russian side of the border.

Now, with the arrival of GMLRS, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) have been devastating Russian ammunition storage sites, weapons facilities, troop concentrations, supply lines and launchers.

“This (GMLRS) is a 200 pound warhead. It's kind of the equivalent of an airstrike, frankly, a precision guided airstrike. These are GPS guided munitions, they've been very effective in hitting things that previously the Ukrainians had difficulty hitting reliably. So command and control nodes, sustainment and logistics hubs, key radar systems and other things,” Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told reporters Aug 8 at the Pentagon, according to a transcript.

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One reason why this is so critical is due to the lack of air superiority. Should Ukraine have any kind of air superiority, which thus far it does not, there is no way to achieve this kind of large “bomb” like effect descrbied by Kahl without substantial land-fired rockets.

Yet another impactful element of this is that an ability to reign down fires from greater distances with precision can cripple an enemy’s freedom of maneuver, meaning Russian efforts to resupply forces or move into attack formations are much more vulnerable to attack.

Kahl explained that GMLRS precision-guided rockets have “made it more difficult for the Russians to move forces around the battlefield. They've had to move certain aspects back, away from the HIMARS. It's slowed them down; it's made it harder for them to resupply their forces.”

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These weapons have been part of the US Army’s arsenal since 2007 and 2008 when land-fired precision was introduced during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided bombs were demonstrated from the air as far back as the Gulf-War era, however land-fired precision did not emerge until 2007 when the Army fielded Excalibur, a GPS-guided 155m artillery shell able to pinpoint ground targets to within a meter of accuracy. When air superiority is unclear or contested to any degree, land-fired precision can fill an urgent operational gap. Prior to the arrival of GMLRS, Ukrainian defenders had little to no way to stop the incoming salvo of ground launched Russian rockets and missiles which have been killing Ukrainian children and civilians for months now.

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.