UK Reportedly Waiting for Green Light From US to Send Long-Range Rocket System to Ukraine
Joe Biden authorised the delivery of four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine on Wednesday, with the weapons said to already be prepositioned in Europe for rapid deployment to Kiev. The HIMARS the US is sending will use ammunition with a range of 80 km, not the 300 km afforded by the system's longest-range ammunition.
The United Kingdom is awaiting US approval for the delivery of medium-range M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Ukraine, Politico has reported, citing a source said to be familiar with the matter and a document containing the proposal.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have spoken to his US counterpart about the matter on Wednesday, with a follow-up to be held by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday.
Formal approval from Washington is required since the US has restrictions in place on the re-export of the American-made weapons platform.
The M270 is a self-propelled tracked multiple rocket launcher introduced in the mid-1980s, and is manufactured by US defence giant Lockheed Martin. The MLRS has an effective firing range between 32 and 70 km, and a maximum range of up to 300 km when fitted with the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), a munition the US has so far refused to send Ukraine for fear of provoking Russia.
The HIMARS is a lighter, upgraded version of the M270 developed in 2010, carrying six rockets, compared to the latter system's 12, and transported on board light trucks. The US used the M270 during its wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the HIMARS has been deployed in Iraq and Syria, ostensibly to "fight Daesh" (ISIS)* and the Syrian government in the 2010s.
HIMARS are operated by the US Army, National Guard, and Marine Corps, and by the armies of Romania, Jordan, the UAE, and Singapore. The artillery is transportable by smaller C-130 transport aircraft. The older M270s are operated by a host of NATO nations, plus Japan and South Korea, Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has slammed Kiev over its demands that NATO send the long-range rocket artillery systems to Ukraine, branding the appeal a "direct provocation" and warning that the move could escalate the conflict.
"Such risks, of course, exist. What the Kiev regime is demanding - unequivocally, and in a master-like manner, from its Western patrons. Firstly, it goes beyond all limits of decency and diplomatic communication. And secondly, it is a direct provocation to involve the West in hostilities", Lavrov said during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that Ukraine urgently needs MLRS artillery to stop "Crocodile" Vladimir Putin's military advance.
In late April, the Russian military warned London that it would receive a "proportional response" if British weapons were used by Ukraine to attack targets inside Russia after Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the UK would consider such strikes fair game.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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