HIMARS vs “Tornado-S”: Why the American “Weapon of Victory of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” Is Overhyped

NEW – July 27, 2022

One should immediately understand that all the statements of the Ukrainian side about the unsurpassed combat qualities of the American missile system are greatly exaggerated. It is interesting that in their homeland, the system is evaluated much more objectively and with restraint.

We have previously seen a similar construction on a pedestal by Ukrainian propaganda workers with the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM. Back then it was also about the turning point of the confrontation and the imminent dominance of the Ukrainian Armed Forces over the forces of the Russian Federation. However, this did not happen, and the vast majority of MANPADS were either destroyed, or fell into the hands of L/DPR fighters as trophies, or were sold to the UAF on the black market.

HIMARS vs “Tornado-S”: a comparison

Compare it with what?

In terms of its performance, technical characteristics and combat tasks performed, HIMARS should be compared with the “Tornado-S” system of the same purpose (“Smerch” MLRS).

Comparison of two systems: number of missiles, area of destruction (1000s m2), shooting distance (km), time to change from transport to firing positions (seconds), accuracy (metres), max speed (km/h), cruising range (km)

A bit of history

The multiple launch rocket system on the M142 HIMARS wheeled chassis was developed in 1996-2000. Their deployment began in 2005, and the first combat use of the systems was recorded in July 2007 in the Iraqi province of Al-Anbar. According to known data, a total of 540 units were produced, which were used during the war in Afghanistan, the civil war in Syria, and the civil war in Iraq.

M142 HIMARS

9K515 “Tornado-C” is a deep modernisation of 9K58 “Smerch”, developed since 2012 by Tula JSC “NPO Splav” to replace MLRS “Grad” and “Smerch”. The first combat use of “Smerch” MLRS was recorded in 1999 during the second war in Chechnya. The same systems were used in 2011 by the Syrian Arab Army during the Syrian civil war, in 2014 during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, and in 2020 during the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.

9K515 Tornado-C

Advantages and disadvantages

Both products are designed to engage long-range group targets, tactical missiles, anti-aircraft systems, command posts, etc. Both are equipped with advanced electronic equipment that allows to obtain information about targets using drones and satellite data.

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At the same time, “Tornado-S” surpasses HIMARS in terms of ammunition used. First of all, the “Tornado-S” firing range is up to 120 km, with a possible prospect of increasing to 200 km. While HIMARS is capable of firing at a distance of 80 km. It is worth mentioning that the American system in theory can shoot at 300 km, but only when firing a particularly tactical ATACMS Block IA missile with a cluster warhead for 300 combat elements and an inertial control system. By the way, they were not delivered to Ukraine.

For the “Tornado-S” MLRS, a long-range missile with a split warhead and the ability to quickly point each warhead at its target was developed, tested and put into service. It can be used to deliver pinpoint strikes, including on moving targets, such as columns of vehicles on the march, railway trains, or the enemy who has gone on the offensive.

ATACMS Block IA tactical missile launch

In terms of the power of standard ammunition and armour penetration indicators, the domestic system is higher than the western one.

12 tubes for missiles allow the “Tornado-S” calculation to cover an area of 60 hectares with fire. It is impossible to achieve the same result with only the 6 tubes installed on HIMARS.

Reloading

In terms of reloading, the American one is indeed superior to the “Tornado-S”. A well-trained crew is able to reload a batch of missiles on its own and make a second salvo. However, because of this, the crew is forced to constantly change their location in order to avoid return fire, which negatively affects the rate of fire.

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To reload the “Tornado-S”, a 9T255 transport and loading vehicle is required.

Transport and loading vehicle

At the same time, the very fact of the appearance of HIMARS, which originated from the M270, a system on a tracked chassis with 12 tubes, was associated with the desire to get transportability at the expense of combat power.

Fire control

The main disadvantage of HIMARS compared to “Tornado-S” is its complex system of fire control, target selection and decision-making. Effective use of the system requires a combination of different types of intelligence. For this reason, the Ukrainian Armed Forces use them only for pinpoint strikes on pre-identified targets. Hitting moving targets or making rapid fire adjustments on newly discovered targets requires considerable time.

At the same time, “Tornado-S” is equipped with an autonomous correction system for the trajectory of missiles, and a drone can be used for targeting, which is also launched directly from a combat vehicle.

Other characteristics

It will also be important to compare the other characteristics of the two MLRS.
The maximum speed that the systems can reach on the highway is 85 km/h for the American one and 60 km/h for the domestic one.

Result

In conclusion, it is important to note that the unification of ammunition and fire control systems allows the use of the “Tornado-S” system in various combat conditions.

Based on information from various sources, we can say that the UAF received at its disposal from 12 to 16 units of HIMARS. According to Military Balance, at the beginning of 2021, there were 120 “Tornado” and “Tornado-S” in the Russian Armed Forces. Even taking into account combat losses, the ratio of forces in relation to MLRS remains overwhelming in favour of the Russian Armed Forces. Two dozen Western models of weapons will not be able to radically change the situation at the fronts.

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