The U.S. secretly modified the advanced Himars rocket launchers it gave Ukraine so they can’t be used to fire long-range missiles, the Wall Street Journal writes citing American officials.
According to the newspaper's interlocutors, the administration of US President Joe Biden took this step to reduce the risk of a wider war with Moscow.
Since June, the U.S. has supplied Ukrainian forces with 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers and a large inventory of satellite-guided rockets (GMLRS) with a range of almost 50 miles (80 kilometres).
However, the HIMARS provided were modified so that they would not be able to fire more powerful missiles. U.S. officials say the Pentagon has modified the launchers so they can’t fire long-range missiles, including the U.S.’s Army Tactical Missile System rockets, or ATACMS, which have a range of nearly 200 miles.
Journalists believe that the new information on the weapons provided to the Ukrainian Armed Forces shows how far the Biden administration has gone to balance its support for Ukraine’s forces against the risk of escalation with Moscow. It also reflects apprehensions among administration officials that their Ukrainian partner might stop keeping its promise not to strike Russian territory with U.S.-provided weapons.
The U.S. has refrained from supplying Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles. But the modifications ensure that Ukraine couldn’t use the Himars launchers the U.S. has provided to fire ATACMS missiles if Kyiv were to acquire them from other sources. Nor could Ukraine use those launchers to fire other types of longer-range missiles if Kyiv somehow managed to produce or acquire them, officials say.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the modifications, which U.S. officials said involvetheir hardware and software.
“Due to operational security considerations, we do not comment publicly on the configuration of systems provided to allies and partners. The United States remains committed to providing Ukraine the capabilities it needs to counter Russian aggression,” General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said.
Ukraine has asked its allies to provide long-range missiles. Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Oleksiy Danilov said that Ukraine needs missiles with a range of more than 800 kilometres to solve problems arising from Russian aggression. This would save on generators that Ukrainians need after Russian strikes on energy infrastructure.