Ukrainian forces have begun using the first batch of the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or Himars, that US President Joe Biden promised to deliver last month to the war-torn nation, the Pentagon said on Monday.
“All indications are [Ukrainian forces] are employing them very well,” a senior US defence official told reporters.
Ukraine's top military commander said on Saturday that Ukraine had started to use the Himars against Russian forces.
“Artillerymen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine skilfully hit certain targets — military targets of the enemy on our Ukrainian territory,” Chief of Ukraine's General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on Telegram.
The Himars multiple-rocket launcher is a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch several precision-guided missiles. Russia also operates multiple-rocket launchers, but the Himars has a superior range and precision, with its rockets able to fly as far as 80 kilometres.
Ukraine says it needs the Himars to better match the range of Russian rocket systems that it says are being used extensively to pummel Ukrainian positions in the Donbas region.
The US official said the Pentagon has been hosting remote military training courses for Ukrainian troops in Europe on the use of Himars and howitzers.
The official added that Washington is working to get additional Himars into the country, as part of a larger security package being sent to Ukraine.
Pointing to an escalation in strikes, the Pentagon assessed that Russia fired at least 60 missiles at Ukraine at the weekend.
“I can't explain why. It could be related to the G7 [summit], certainly could be related to the Ukrainian movement of Himars in the theatre, or can be a larger part of their battle strategy here,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.
Asked about Russia’s military leadership and the high turnover of Russian commanders on the battlefield, the US official pointed to “morale” issues.
The US is “aware of several reliefs of Russian generals in Ukraine”, the official said.
The Pentagon assessed that “concerns with that leadership and continued morale concerns with Russian forces” continue to be an issue.