This is Why Russia Has Failed to Destroy a Single HIMARS

Wes O'Donnell
5 min readNov 15, 2022

The “Kill Chain” might sound like just a bad made-for-TV movie — but it’s essential to understanding Russia’s battlefield failures.

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii (July 18, 2022) U.S. Marines with 5th Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, fire High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at Pōhakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick King) Public domain.

In September, Russia faced online mockery for claiming to have destroyed more HIMARS than Ukraine actually owns.

Russia had claimed 44, but the U.S. has only supplied 16 to date.

Some commentators said that perhaps the Russian Defense Ministry meant it had intercepted 44 rockets — not killed 44 launchers.

But there is some evidence that Russia thought it had actually destroyed the launchers — The Washington Post recently reported that Ukrainian forces had tricked their Russian adversaries into attacking several dummy HIMARS, mostly made of wood.

The report said that Russia had fired at least 10 Kalibr cruise missiles (priced at $1.2 million apiece) at fake HIMARS decoys.

As a refresher, the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is a light multiple rocket launcher developed in the late 1990s for the United States Army.

Its successful use by the Ukrainian armed forces has been pivotal to Ukraine’s recent offensive success. For instance, Ukraine has used its HIMARS to repeatedly hit bridges across the Dnieper River, which separates the Russian-occupied city of Kherson from the main area of Russian-controlled territory south of the river.

So, what is going on here?

Why can’t Russia coordinate the destruction of a few medium tactical vehicles?

Well, attacking stuff is harder than it sounds.

The “kill chain” originated as U.S. military jargon that simply defines the structure of an attack. It has since been adopted by the cybersecurity community for the same reason.

It’s called a ‘chain’ because any interruption at any stage can break the entire integrated process. In the U.S. Air Force, we use the not-so-handy acronym: F2-T2-EA that stands for Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage, Assess.

It works like this:

FIND — ID the target through intelligence, surveillance, or reconnaissance (ISR)

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Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Pro-Democracy | Pro-Human Rights