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Lithuania Conducts First Live-Fire HIMARS Exercise as Part of SwiftResponse24.

On May 9, as part of SwiftResponse 24, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Lithuanian Armed Forces conducted their first live-fire exercise using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) in anticipation of Lithuania's receipt of 8 HIMARS units in 2025. This historic event took place at the Brigadier General Povilas Plechavičius Training Area in Kairiai, located in the Klaipėda region of Lithuania, targeting areas in the Baltic Sea.
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 Following a purchase agreement signed in 2022, Lithuania, in collaboration with other Baltic states, is set to receive 8 launchers equipped with both live and inert ammunition (Picture source: Lithuanian MoD)

This exercise was a key component of Exercise Immediate Response 2024, a major military initiative involving the deployment of HIMARS in Lithuania. The main objectives of this exercise were the deployment of strategic forces, the use of pre-positioned stocks, and enhancing interoperability among NATO partners and allies. The initiative is part of the larger NATO exercise, Steadfast Defender 2024, which is the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War, involving over 90,000 troops from 32 allied nations.

Chief of Defence, General Valdemaras Rupšys, emphasized the importance of such joint training exercises with U.S. forces, highlighting their role in maintaining a credible deterrent against potential threats to Lithuania or NATO. During the live-fire session, munitions were launched over the Curonian Lagoon and fell into the Baltic Sea, approximately 15 kilometers from the firing positions. For safety, a danger area was established and controlled in the Baltic Sea by the LNS Jotvingis, a Vidar-class command and supply ship, along with patrol ships Dzūkas and Aukštaitis, while the Military Police supervised the land area.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is a highly mobile, lightweight artillery system developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Army.

Production of the HIMARS began in the late 1990s, and it officially entered service in 2005. Designed for rapid deployment and high mobility, HIMARS can be transported by C-130 aircraft, allowing for quick deployment across various theaters of operation. HIMARS is capable of firing both guided and unguided rockets, as well as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. It features a single six-pack of rockets or one ATACMS missile on a standard Army M1140 truck chassis, enhancing its agility and flexibility on the battlefield. The system supports a range of munitions that can target enemy positions up to 300 kilometers away, making it an essential asset for providing precise fire support at interdiction ranges, thereby greatly enhancing its operational effectiveness in modern military strategies.

The exercise also served as a preparatory step for Lithuania as it anticipates the arrival of its own HIMARS systems. Following a purchase agreement signed in 2022, Lithuania, in collaboration with other Baltic states, is set to receive 8 launchers equipped with both live and inert ammunition. This includes various missile pods and the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), with the first deliveries expected in 2025.

Exercise Immediate Response 2024, directed by the United States European Command (USEUCOM) and the United States Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF), runs from May 6-14 and includes nearly 13,000 troops from 16 countries. This strategic deployment underscores NATO's commitment to security on its northern and eastern flanks, highlighting the alliance's capability to coordinate and execute complex multinational defense operations.

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