A decision on rocket systems touted as “a game changer” for kyiv could be made as soon as next week.
As early as next week, the Biden administration could announce an escalation in arms supplies to Ukraine, possibly allowing the delivery of MLRS and HIMARS long-range multiple rocket launchers, several officials told CNN.
The M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) are two versions of US-made rocket artillery systems that can mostly fire the same types of rockets
Depending on the projectile used, they can have a range of up to 500 km, although the most affordable ammunition offers an effective firing range of 32 to 70 km. The main difference is that the MLRS is a heavier tracked system carrying twice as many rockets as the HIMARS mounted on a wheeled truck.
Ukrainian officials have included both systems among the weapons they want the United States and its allies to donate to their fight against Russia. kyiv has Soviet Grad and Uragan multiple rocket launchers in its arsenal, but says US systems would give them an advantage on the battlefield.
According to CNN sources, the Biden administration has been reluctant to supply rocket artillery due to concerns that kyiv could use the systems to attack targets inside Russia. Several bombardments and helicopter attacks have targeted Russian territory in recent weeks, for which Moscow blamed the Ukrainian side.
Washington officials are reportedly concerned that Moscow will perceive the delivery of MLRS and HIMARS, with their potential to fire tactical ballistic missiles, as a major provocation. There are also concerns that the weapons systems will have to come from the US’s own inventory, which is limited, CNN sources said.
Pentagon officials have met with the CEO of Lockheed Martin to discuss the possible increase in production of the MLRS, a source said. The UK has said it considered supplying the same rocket artillery systems from its own arsenal but wanted to do so together with the US, the report added.
Officials in kyiv and pro-Ukrainian voices in the US say the US launchers would turn the tide of Ukrainian forces. “I think it could be a game changer, to be honest with you,” Representative Jason Crow told CNN.
kyiv has been losing ground recently and now says things are looking bad in the eastern Donbass region. This week, the city of Liman, a major stronghold for Ukrainian troops and a key railway junction, was captured by Russian and allied forces.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Since then, the Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.