Ukraine's Himars rockets can now target Crimea

Fall of Kherson brings Russian-annexed territory into range, former US commander says

Ukrainians fire Himars rockets close to the frontline in the northern Kherson region on November 5. EPA
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Russian-annexed Crimea could soon come under bombardment from the deadly Himars long-range missiles after the loss of Kherson, an American general has said.

With the weapons capable of hitting targets up to 90 kilometres away, Moscow is understood to have already ordered the evacuation of a helicopter base close to the peninsula taken by Russia in 2014.

“The approaches to Crimea are within range,” said Gen Ben Hodges, the retired commander of US Army Europe. He also suggested that the iconic city of Mariupol, where Ukraine troops held out for almost three months, could be recaptured in January.

The US supply of Himars — High Mobility Artillery Rocket System — along with British, German and French precision systems, has been crucial in the battle for the key strategic city of Kherson.

The system’s devastating abilities were first demonstrated in late June when a massive explosion rocked the outskirts of the only city taken by Russia during its nine-month invasion.

The Russians claimed that an agricultural warehouse had caught fire but the Ukrainians said it was a 90 kilogram rocket fired from the system. It wiped out an ammunition dump heralding the crucial impact of Himars rockets, that have gone on to destroy bridges, supply depots and command headquarters, crippling Russia’s ability to function.

As part of its $20 billion military package, the US has sent 34 vehicles that can fire six of the $110,000 GMLRS rockets from a single pod in under a minute.

The system is now likely to be positioned in areas on the west bank of the Dnipro river, from where it can hit just inside Crimea. A strike will be another blow to President Vladimir Putin’s prestige.

“Himars will soon be firing from Kherson,” Gen Hodges tweeted on Saturday, the day after the city fell. “The approaches to Crimea are within range. This will degrade Russian defences/LOC's [lines of communication] while ‘left wing’ of the counter-offensive takes Mariupol & Melitopol by January.”

A Himars truck showing its six rocket pods in the northern Kherson region on October 29.  EPA

Once the land bridge to mainland Russia is cut-off to Crimea, the Ukraine army will begin “the decisive phase of the campaign … liberation of Crimea”, he said.

With a map giving the ranges of the Himars, he demonstrated the ability to strike targets from Kherson. “I imagine this will start soon,” he said.

Himars are also likely to be hidden in positions close to the Dnipro ready to immediately provide counter fire against any Russian artillery.

A resident hugs a Ukrainian soldier as people celebrate after Russia's retreat from Kherson on Friday. Reuters

The Ukrainians will also use their long-range reconnaissance drones to seek out further targets closer to Crimea.

This has led to reports the Russians are already evacuating their helicopter base in Chaplynka, which also has an important command and control centre.

Other Russian arms depots, barracks and logistic hubs are also likely to be emptied to get outside the range of Himars.

Updated: November 13, 2022, 12:57 PM
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