Australian Defense Force gears up for HIMARS testing in the US

As part of an initiative to strengthen its defense capabilities, Australian Defense Force (ADF) gunners are preparing for training in the United States as the country prepares to deploy its new M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). The development is part of wider efforts to strengthen Australia's defense and security measures and foster international cooperation.
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U.S. Marine Corps M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System with Marine Rotational Force - Darwin aims its launcher during an emergency fire mission during Exercise Koolendong at Bradshaw Field Training Area, NT, Australia. (Picture source: US DoD)

Australia's first HIMARS unit, known as the 14th Regiment, will be stationed at Puckapunyal in central Victoria. Gunners from this unit will undergo training at the US Artillery School in Oklahoma starting next year.

The first HIMARS battery will receive the first batch of 20 recently purchased HIMARS units, with delivery scheduled for 2025. Initially, a single troop of four HIMARS units will be in service, while the remainder will be dedicated to training, maintenance, and to certification. This deployment is expected to expand to a battery of three troops by 2027.

As a reminder, on August 18, 2023, the US Department of State made a significant decision aimed at strengthening defense ties with one of its main allies in the Western Pacific, by approving a foreign military sale to Australia. This transaction, valued at $975 million, includes the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) as well as a variety of related equipment.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Australian government has expressed interest in acquiring twenty-two M142 HIMARS systems, sixty M30A1 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) Alternative Warhead (AW) pods with an insensitive munitions propulsion system (IMPS), forty M31A1 GMLRS Unitary (GMLRS-U) High Explosive (HE) pods with IMPS, sixty-six M30A2 Extended Range (ER)-GMLRS AW pods, and twenty-four M31A2 ER pods GMLRS Unitary (HE). This sale also includes Reduced Range Training Rocket Pods (RRPR) Pods, Intercom Systems for the HIMARS Launcher Rocket Launcher, M1084A2 HIMARS Re-Supply Vehicles (RSV), Trailers, 9300-SL60TN Forklifts, Side Loaders, as well as a range of other support equipment and training materials.

Following the recent Exercise Talisman Sabre, Australian troops had the opportunity to closely observe US HIMARS vehicles and Korean K9 Thunder vehicles. They also held discussions with the current operators of these systems, gaining valuable information on their capabilities and deployment.

The acquisition of HIMARS will significantly strengthen Australia’s defense capabilities, enabling it to better address current and future threats. It will also promote greater interoperability with US forces and other allies, contributing to Australia's internal defense and the protection of its critical infrastructure. The United States assures that the integration of this equipment into the Australian armed forces will be carried out with complete transparency.

From a technical point of view, the M142 HIMARS is a highly mobile, advanced artillery system developed by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Armed Forces. Designed to launch multiple types of munitions, including the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) and the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), HIMARS provides precision-strike capabilities to ground forces, enabling them to engage and defeat artillery, air defense concentrations, trucks, light armor, and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations. The system is mounted on a five-ton truck chassis and can be transported in a C-130 aircraft, making it the lightest and most transportable of the U.S. military's rocket launchers.

HIMARS has been lauded for its accuracy, flexibility, and rapid deployment capabilities. It can operate in varied terrains and weather conditions, making it a versatile asset for ground forces. The system's ability to launch its munitions from a significant distance ensures the safety of its operators while delivering devastating effects on targets. Its integration into modern warfare strategies underscores the importance of precision artillery in contemporary military operations.