HIMARS onslaught as Zelensky torches Russian base with devastating salvo of rockets

Ukraine: Russian ammunition depot on fire in Donetsk

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The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has been used to devastating effect by the Ukrainian military since it was first supplied in June, and was last week credited by RUSI’s Dr Sidharth Kaushal as changing the course of the war. Writing on Facebook today, Serhiy Gaidai, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said the Pyatnashka battalion, created after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, was on fire.

He added: “Right now, on the outskirts of Donetsk, either someone was smoking carelessly, or it was ‘stones from the sky.’

“The base of the famous ‘Pyatnashka,’ an international gang that fought in the Luhansk region, is on fire.”

The missiles had “destroyed fashionable equipment”, Mr Gaidai said, adding: “There will be more.”

Denys Kazanskyi, a Ukrainian journalist, shared a clip on Telegram which seemed to show explosions at the building.

He commented: “At night, the base of the so-called ‘Pyatnashka’ brigade was hit by a high-precision strike by the HIMARS in Donetsk.”

Other footage purportedly showing attacks on the base was also shared on social media.

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Local report suggested the explosions, at about 4am local time, woke residents in Donetsk, located in the east of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ukraine.

Speaking to Express.co.uk on Friday, Dr Kaushal, a Research Fellow at the UK-based military think tank, said: “HIMARS has definitely impacted the course of the war by enabling the Ukrainians to target Russian artillery depots and slow the tempo at which Russia has been able to conduct fire missions in the east.

“I probably wouldn’t go so far as to say its changed the course of the war – the pace of Russia’s advances, which have now ground to a halt, were slow for a number of reasons, including the exhaustion and depletion of their units and the difficult terrain.”

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He added: “That said, HIMARS has undoubtedly contributed massively to this outcome by preventing the Russians to compensate for their lack of infantry through sheer firepower in the way they did in the initial phases of their advance through Donbas.”

”It does appear that Russia is struggling to cope with them.”

Earlier this month, Sunil Nair, an analyst with defence intelligence company Janes, outlined four specific reasons why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces were struggling to cope with the HIMARS onslaught, related to their mobility, accuracy, what he called their “connected tech” and the high levels of crew training.

He said: “The HIMARS have certainly proved their potential as a potent force multiplier for Ukraine’s existing artillery, along with the other recently received western kit – towed and self-propelled howitzers.

“It is the precision factor with the M31A1 rounds that offers Ukraine a significant new artillery capability over its Soviet-era MRLs.

“However, for range, the M31 GMLRS round fired from the HIMARS does not provide dramatically greater capability than the BM-27 Uragans or the BM-30 Smerch.”

Mr Nair explained: “Hence while the massed artillery fire will come from these and other new artillery systems, the M142 HIMARS will be useful in counter-battery, striking high-value targets in deep and possibly in Suppression of Russian air defence assets (SEAD).

“The one factor that the Ukrainians will be cognisant about is the ‘Burn rate’.

“The limitation of the ‘HIMARS effect’ is more the availability of rockets than launchers.

“While 16 launchers have been supplied, Ukraine has called for 100 more.”

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