The U.S. covertly altered a critical weapons system sent to Ukraine in an effort to prevent Ukrainian forces from striking Russian territory amid fears of provoking Russia’s ire against the West, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The U.S. has provided 20 of the highly popular High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, or HIMARS, to Ukraine since June and at least 38 total, alongside ammunition known as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, that carry a range of 50 miles, according to the WSJ. U.S. officials told the WSJ the Pentagon modified those HIMARS to remove a long-range capability, constraining the Ukrainian forces’ ability to use the coveted system to fire missiles into Russia.
While standard HIMARS can fire the U.S.’s Army Tactical Missile System rockets, or ATACMS, which have a range of roughly 200 miles, the modified systems can’t, according to the WSJ.
In addition, the U.S. has refused Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy’s requests to supply his forces with ATACMS, according to the WSJ. Ukraine also promised to refrain from striking targets in Russia, using ATACMS only to “hit some targets on the occupied Ukrainian territory,” or Crimea.
The modifications ensure that Ukraine could not use U.S.-made HIMARS to attack Russian territory even if it could source ATACMS or similar long-range missile systems from other foreign suppliers, officials told the WSJ.