Russia claims to have “hacked” HIMARS rocket launchers. Probably a big, fat lie, that one

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The accusation was made on the Rossiya-1 TV channel, as reported, by Alexei Leonov, editor of the Russian military publication Arsenal Otechestva (“Arsenal of the Fatherland”). Leonov made an appearance as a guest of TV personality Vladimir Solovyov, who, as Newsweek reminds out, has been labelled a Kremlin propagandist by the State Department.

Strange claims that the Russian military could access HIMARS rocket launchers and pinpoint their location have been disproven over time. The assertion, made by a defence expert on Russian state television in late July, was said to have come as a “unpleasant surprise” to the Americans who were providing the weapon to Ukraine. There is no proof that any HIMARS trucks have been lost nearly a month later.


  • Currently, 16 M142 HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, have been donated by the United States to Ukraine. HIMARS consists of a medium-sized tactical truck that can launch rockets up to 43 miles away and carry up to six 227 millimetre GPS-guided rockets. A 200-pound, high-explosive warhead is mounted on each rocket, and GPS guidance guarantees that each one can land within 16 feet of the designated target location.

  • “The American system has been hacked,” Leonov announced to his television audience, “and our secret development will be deployed in all directions. A good system, I can’t name it yet, but it works at much greater distances, instantly fixing the launch site. For the Americans, this was a very unpleasant surprise.”

As Ukraine continues to attack targets behind Russian lines, American officials are satisfied with the employment of HIMARS and have progressively increased the quantity of rocket launchers delivered to the nation. A senior U.S. defence official stated last week that Ukraine had “masterfully” used HIMARS and that the latest round of military assistance, which included HIMARS ammunition, was meant to guarantee Ukraine receives “a constant stream of ammunition to satisfy its demands.”

The first four HIMARS were delivered to Ukraine by the U.S. in early June, and by the end of July, Ukrainian forces had engaged in more than 100 “high-value” combat operations. Against Russian forces in Ukraine, HIMARS systems have proven to be incredibly effective, destroying Russian command centres, ammo depots, and air defence systems. By eliminating command units and resupply sources, HIMARS has exacerbated the depletion of Russia’s military forces, aggravating issues with poor leadership and the availability of supplies.

Returning to the claims Recall that Leonov claimed that HIMARS had been “hacked” by Russia and that Russian forces could “immediately fix the launch site.” There are two reasons why this might be.

One is that HIMARS launch sites are being discovered by Russian soldiers employing counter-battery radars. Radars used for counter-battery purposes scan the skies for enemy artillery projectiles and rockets in flight. A counter-battery radar may calculate a predicted launch location after spotting approaching artillery shells. The friendly artillery then bombards the area using this information, hopefully catching the enemy artillery as it shifts to a new firing position.

Could Russian anti-aircraft radars assist in taking down HIMARS systems? Absolutely. Six 13-foot-long missiles flying into Russian-controlled territory can be found by counter-battery radars like the Zoopark-1. HIMARS is a cunning target, though, since a HIMARS truck may “fire and scoot” before Russian artillery can descend on its position thanks to the M142’s truck chassis, the use of GPS to quickly lay in a HIMARS firing position, and Ukraine’s superb network of paved roads. Leonov’s use of the term “hack” suggests that Russian soldiers had somehow gained access to the HIMARS system. This could be a reference to Russian hacking of the truck’s computer system, the HIMARS communication system, the navigation and targeting system, or both. None of this is very likely, though, as Russian forces cannot “instantly” determine the location of a single user of the American-made SINCGARS VHF communications system that Ukraine is using. The navigation and targeting computers most likely don’t transmit any radio-frequency signals at all; they only likely receive data. Although HIMARS use an internal computer system, it is improbable that it broadcasts signals that Russian forces can pick up at a distance. It’s very unlikely that Russian soldiers have compromised HIMARS.

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