On Ukrainian social media, a growing number of photos show a rocket launcher made by the United States being used against Russian targets.
The US Department of Defense announced that it would send four HIMAR systems (four in total) to Ukraine at the beginning of June to assist the country in defending itself against attack.
It stated that the first training of Ukrainian soldiers on the system would take approximately three weeks.
A number of posts on social media from Ukrainian military sources have shown the HIMARS in action within the country in recent days. These posts reportedly targeted forces from Russia.
One shows vehicles traveling along a road in the southern-eastern Zaporizhzhia area. Then the system is in use, firing a series of missiles into the night. This was according to the official account by the General Staff of Ukraine Armed Forces.
Tweet in English and Ukrainian: “Combat work by HIMARS. Zaporizhzhia direction. Beautiful, fast, accurate. @DeptofDefense @thejointstaff”.
Another image, in Ukrainian, shows the vehicle operating at night and lighting up the sky while the rockets are being launched. A third, taken from a different source shows the equipment being loaded with “cartridges” of six more rockets and firing tubes.
Tweet by The Cube, an open-source enthusiast who claims to have analysed the area where rockets were fired, and that they believe they were directed at Russian positions near Melitopol airport.
The HIMARS is believed to have reached the frontline within the last few days. On 22 June, Ukrainian armed forces stated that they still waited for the US rocket launcher system to arrive.
This comes at a time when other photos on social media taken by Ukrainian defense sources show an increasing use of Western weapons, such as the French self-propelled heavy gun CAESAR 155mm CAESAR.
Analysts believe that it could signal the beginning of the arrival of several Western weapons that were promised to Ukraine over the past few months. However, it will take more to turn the tide.
Continue reading: What’s the future of the Donbas after Luhansk is overthrown by Russia?
Forbes McKenzie, a defence intelligence analyst, said to Sky News that the artillery pieces are now in action. The CAESAR system, a 155mm French artillery piece, has been brought into operation… The HIMAR system from America… They need a combat mass 54 for any real effect.
They can fire six rockets simultaneously, be in action within 16 seconds, can shoot, scoot and can survive. These are the munitions that the Ukrainians will require to defeat and deter the Russians over the next months.
“This was used at weekend. A lot of equipment was found on an airport in Melitopol by the Russians on 2 July. This weapon system was used against these aircraft on the 3rd.
It’s beginning to be used, but it will take several months before it can be properly committed.”
According to the US Department of Defense, the missiles that were supplied to Ukraine have an effective range of 40 miles.
However, in past usage, it was said to be efficient up to a maximum range 300 km (187 miles).
Colin Kahl, US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, stated at a Pentagon briefing that “These precision guided systems have extended range, for high-value targets, which allows them to keep some pressure off of Ukrainian forces at the front.”
Other unverified claims have also been made that HIMARS was used in the past few days against a Russian military base in the Izyum region.
HIMARS is not the only rocket launch system being sent to Ukraine. British forces and Norway are supplying the M270 system, which was developed by several NATO countries, including the UK.
It is believed that it is still to come.