Artillery strikes play a key role in Russia’s war against Ukraine, which top American commanders call a “battle between fires”.
Because of its larger arsenal of artillery, Russia’s military had an initial advantage over Ukraine’s armed forces.
This meant that they could devastate Ukrainian positions to the east while remaining out of range of Ukrainian weapons.
The United Kingdom, United States, and later Germany worked together to tilt the balance of firepower in favor of Ukraine by providing their allies artillery systems with a greater range than the Russians and fire with greater accuracy.
This includes arming Ukrainian troops using multiple-launch rocket system or MLRS.
What’s an MLRS?
MLRS is a multi-launch rocket system, which can fire multiple surface-to-surface weapons.
The M270 rocket system is used by the Royal Artillery of the British Army.
The weapon can be operated by a crew consisting of a driver, gunner, and section chief. It is highly mobile, automated, and can fire 12 precision-guided missiles from surface to surface in under a minute. You can fire them individually or in pairs up to 12.
The M31 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions (GMLRS) can reach targets more than 50 miles away. This is twice the range of other artillery systems.
To extend the reach further, a program is in place.
Fire control computers ensure accuracy by constantly re-aiming the launcher in between rounds.
The M270 MLRS was created under a US-led program that saw the first systems enter service in the 1980s.
During the First Gulf War, the UK was the first to use its MLRS.
What aid has the UK provided to Ukraine in order to increase its firepower?
The UK has provided six MLRS and precision guided M31A1 missiles to Ukraine.
In June 2022, the first of three tranches was announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. He stated that the system would help the country “defend itself against Russian aggression”.
Two months later, a new commitment was made to double the UK’s contribution.
Czechs give PS1.1m for Soviet-era tank
Ukraine pushes Russian troops out of key cities
Why is Ukraine interested in MLRS?
The UK MLRS, and an identical artillery system, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, provided to Ukraine by USA, are longer range, more precise, and fire at a faster rate than the Soviet-designed Smerch and Uragan multiple rocket launchers.
Germany gave the Ukrainians MARS II rocket launchers and hundreds of rockets.
This means that Ukrainian troops can hit Russian positions, including command posts and military bases, with precision and with less risk of being struck by Russian return fire.
To compensate for their lack of precision, the Russian military must use large quantities of ammunition against a target.
The UK M31A1 missiles were designed to protect against Russian heavy artillery. With a range of over 50 miles, the MLRS allows Ukraine to strike far beyond Russian lines while keeping it out of reach for most Russian artillery systems.
The West has so far resisted providing Ukraine with longer-range missiles that can reach targets as far as 186 miles. This would allow the military to strike areas deep within Russian territory.
Is Russia a member of MLRS?
Russia’s own multi-launch rocket system, the 9K58 Smerch 300mm MLRRS. It can fire the 300mm 9M55K rocket, and it has a range between 12 and 43 mi.
Smerch was created in the 1980s and entered service in 1988 with the Russian Army.
It was also used by the military of India, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
What’s the difference between HIMARS and MLRS?
HIMARS can fire the same munitions as MLRS Launchers, but with one key distinction: a wheeled chassis rather than tracks.
The MLRS tracks make the system extremely mobile with a maximum speed of 40 mph.
This makes it difficult for enemy radar to see the launchers and allows them to quickly change positions after firing to escape airstrikes. It has been called a “shoot-and-scoot” strategy.
What are some of the drawbacks to MLRS?
According to Ukraine, the number of Western leaders providing rocket launcher systems is still too low.
Mykhailo Podolyak was a consultant to Ukraine’s president and stated that the country needed at least 300 MLRSs, 1,000 heavy howitzerss, 500 tanks, and 2,000 armored vehicles. This is much more than what the West has given.
The UK also provided Ukrainian military rocket-launchers and training to a number Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the system.