Short on rockets, Ukraine has had to get ‘more selective’ with its HIMARS attacks, soldier says

Short on rockets, Ukraine has had to get ‘more selective’ with its HIMARS attacks, soldier says
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A HIMARS rocket launching.
A M142 HIMARS launches a rocket on the Bakhmut direction on May 18, 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

  • Ukraine’s ammo shortages are also affecting its US-made HIMARS, an American veteran told BI.
  • Soldiers are now having to pass on targets they once would have hit, he said.
  • Ukraine has had to get “more and more selective with their targets,” giving Russia an edge.

Ukraine’s insufficient supply of ammunition means its soldiers can’t hit the targets they want with even their most effective weapons, a US veteran now fighting in Ukraine told Business Insider.

Such weapons include the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), with soldiers unable to use it to hit the same targets that they could earlier in the war when they had more munitions available, the veteran, Jonathan Poquette, bold Business Insider.

He said his unit had good support from HIMARS — a long-range, high-precision rocket launcher that can hit targets 50 miles away — but its effectiveness was degraded as rockets ran low.

Poquette is a sniper with Chosen Company, part of Ukraine’s 59th Motorized Brigade. Chosen Company is made up of international soldiers now fighting for Ukraine, and while it’s technically a reconnaissance unit, it also does front-line assault operations and defensive work.

Ukrainian soldiers watch a rocket fire from a HIMARS launcher on May 18, 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers watch a rocket fire from a HIMARS launcher in May 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

He said that when he was not on missions, he would look at satellite imagery on computers, “looking for targets, looking for batteries, artillery batteries that needed to get hit, looking for convoys, possible supply points of the Russians.”

He would then bring those targets to the Ukrainian HIMARS operator, who would then start the military’s verification process to confirm the target and see if it was worth a hit.

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The next step would be to “send off a rocket and boom, boom, target eliminated, done.”

That was earlier in the conflict though. The supply of rockets began to dry up in October when Russia launched a new offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region and when Republicans in Congress started stalling billions of US aid.

Congress approved $300 million for Ukraine last month, which would have included HIMARS rockets. But the allocated money had been already spent, per recent reporting, meaning the money isn’t available at the moment.

Not enough rockets

As the supply situation at the front worsened, Poquette was often told “we’re not really interested in these type of targets right now” when he would present potential strike options. That shift, he explained, was “because we’re running out of rockets.”

The unit “started getting more and more selective with their targets,” he explained.

For example, they stopped trying to hit Russian training areas. They were once a good target, as “that’s where you generally have a collection of troops. And so for one missile that impacts, you might take out 30 guys. So at that point, it’s really efficient.”

But those were further away from the Ukrainians and often meant firing rockets over Russia’s air defense systems.

That risk would be acceptable for Ukraine if it had more rockets. The solution would be to fire more, making it more likely for at least one to get through, but that just wasn’t something they could do anymore.

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HIMARS
M142 HIMARS launches a rocket on Russian position on December 29, 2023 in Unspecified, Ukraine.

The HIMARS were praised as the perfect weapon for Ukraine when they first arrived in 2022, and they have since been used to destroy Russian weaponry and hit Russian troops, repeatedly causing significant damage.

But officials say Ukraine needs more rockets. The Hudson Institute, a US think tank, said this month that Ukraine faces an “acute shortage.”

Grave shortages

Ukraine is running critically low on supplies, including ammunition for artillery and air defenses as Republicans in the US have continuously stalled further aid for six months now.

Poquette, who has been recovering in Kyiv since January from an injury, said those lawmakers are “somewhat responsible for our lack of ability to hold ground.”

Ukraine’s soldiers say they have to ration supplies, meaning Russian targets they know could be hit are left untouched.

Poquette said that critical shortages of ammunition have hamstrung operations in other ways as well, noting that earlier in the war, they would take any opportunity to target and attempt to destroy advancing groups of Russian troops.

But the Ukrainians had to shift their mindset. If the group was small enough, “the Ukrainians would evaluate it and be like, well, it’s only two or three guys, maybe four, is that really worth an artillery round or a mortar round?”

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut on March 5, 2024.
Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut in March 2024.

Instead, infantry might be sent in to eliminate the threat, putting Ukrainian lives at risk in a way that they might not have been using indirect fire.

Poquette said that the kind of marksmanship training they could do became increasingly limited, too. “After a while, we’d go out and they’d be like, ‘Hey, go easy on the ammo guys. Don’t waste so much ammo.'”

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He said that Ukrainian soldiers are so “desperate” for ammunition that they would ask him for his grenades and bullets any time he was turning over his position to a new team.

Poquette said an issue with Western aid is that it comes in “tidbits,” with long debates delaying decisions to send certain equipment and varying levels of support arriving at different times, making planning very hard for Ukraine.

Many experts and Western officials have said that the situation is dire for Ukraine and that it could lose the war to Russia if it does not receive sufficient support.

Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the head of US European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, warned this week that Russia could quickly win the war if Ukraine does not get more aid and said most money approved for Ukraine would actually go to US companies.

Poquette urged the US to continue its support, saying the GOP’s actions had shaken his long-standing loyalty to the party. He argued that Ukraine has more than demonstrated that with enough support it can fend off the Russians. All it needs is the unwavering support promised.

“How much more do they need to prove? Don’t tie one of their hands behind their back,” he said. “Support Ukraine, help us win this war.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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