A decision on the rocket system, dubbed ‘a game changer’ for Kiev, could be made as early as next week.
Early next week, the Biden administration may announce an increase in arms supplies to Ukraine, possibly allowing the supply of multiple rocket launchers to MLRS and HIMARS long-range, multiple officials told CNN.
The M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) are two versions of the US-built rocket artillery system that can launch most similar rockets.
Depending on the projectile used, they can have a range of up to 500 kilometers, although more affordable weapons offer an effective firing range of 32 to 70 kilometers. The main difference is that the MLRS is a heavily tracked system that carries twice as many rockets as the wheeled truck-mounted HIMARS.
Ukrainian officials have listed both systems among the weapons the United States and its allies want to fund in the war against Russia. Kiev’s arsenal contains multiple Soviet Grad and Uragan rocket launchers, but says American systems will give them an advantage on the battlefield.
According to CNN sources, the Biden administration was reluctant to supply rocket artillery due to concerns that Kyiv could use systems to attack targets inside Russia. A number of shelling and helicopter attacks have targeted Russian territory in recent weeks, with Moscow blaming Ukraine.
Washington officials are reportedly concerned that Moscow will realize the delivery of MLRS and HIMARS, with the possibility of launching their strategic ballistic missiles, as a major provocation. There are also concerns that weapons systems should come from the United States’ own list, which is limited, CNN sources said.
Pentagon officials have met with Lockheed Martin’s CEO to discuss possible increases in MLRS production, a source said. The United Kingdom has said it is considering supplying the same rocket artillery system from its own stockpile, but wants to do so in conjunction with the United States, the report added.
Officials in Kiev and pro-Ukrainian voices in the United States say American launchers will turn the tide for Ukrainian forces. “I think it could be a game changer, to be honest with you.” Correspondent Jason Crowe told CNN.
Kyiv recently lost territory and now says things are looking bad for it east of Donbass. This week, the city of Liman, a major base for Ukrainian troops and a major railway crossing, was occupied by Russian and allied forces.
Russia invaded the neighboring country in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the first Minsk agreement, signed in 2014, and the final recognition of Moscow’s Donetsk and Lugansk’s Donbas republics. The German- and French-brokerage protocols were designed to give special status to isolated territories within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine formally declare itself a neutral state that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kyiv has insisted that the Russian invasion was completely unpleasant and has denied claims that it is planning to forcibly restore the two republics.
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