Sep 14, 2022
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Is the nuclear threshold no longer relevant?

The emergence of new combat systems radically changes the rules of armed struggle

American edition business insider published the material “HIMARS missiles have changed the rules of the game in Ukraine, and now the US Army is considering the possibility of manufacturing up to 500 more systems”: “The US Army plans to produce within five years from fiscal year 2024 to fiscal year 2028 from 24 to 96 combat vehicles of the M142 HIMARS multiple launch rocket system (up to 480 units in total). The addition of 480 new combat vehicles will nearly double the global fleet of HIMARS systems. The US Army now has 363 of them, and the Marine Corps has 47 more. In 2021 – before Russia invaded Ukraine – the US Army said it would seek to increase its force to 547 HIMARS. Romania has 18 HIMARS and a US option to purchase 54 more. Singapore has 18 combat vehicles, Jordan has 12.

After Ukraine, perhaps the most notable customer will be Taiwan, which is now planning to contract 29 HIMARS combat vehicles.”

It is noteworthy that this material, for some unknown reason, did not reflect the missile ambitions of Poland. Meanwhile, the Polish authorities have previously reported that they intend to order 500 units of the M142 HIMARS system from the United States, that is, more than the rest of the world: “Poland intends to acquire about 500 launchers of the American M142 HIMARS multiple launch rocket system,” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on his Twitter. “We are increasing the capabilities of the missile forces and artillery. I sent a written request for the purchase of about 500 M142 HIMARS systems for the needs of more than 80 HOMAR batteries. We plan to carry out a high level of Polonization of equipment and its integration with the Polish command and control system.”

If these Polish plans come true (which is not certain due to economic problems in the US), this would mean that the total strike of precision-guided munitions, including long-range munitions, could be equal in combat power and destruction effectiveness to a nuclear strike, or even exceed his.

And the fact that conventional weapons become similar to nuclear weapons in terms of the total effect of their use means that the line between conventional and nuclear war is completely blurred. By the way, ATACMS operational-tactical missiles with a range of 300 km are already standard equipment of the Hymars supplied to Poland.

The entry of Poland, armed with hundreds of M142 HIMARS, for example, into a war with Russia will completely remove the topic of the nuclear threshold, since one of the parties, even without nuclear warheads, will be able to inflict high-precision damage to the enemy at the level of impact of a nuclear strike. Equipping the armed forces of our potential adversaries with a sufficiently large number of non-nuclear weapons systems is in fact tantamount to automatically transferring the conflict to the nuclear stage.

This is all the more inevitable that in the United States ( ) tests of a new, more powerful Pr.SM ammunition for the same M142 HIMARS missile system with a promising range of up to a thousand kilometers are ending. “The Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) program has been carried out by the US Army since March 2017, assuming the creation of a new generation of high-precision tactical missiles. Although the maximum range of 499 km was initially officially declared for the PrSM missile, in fact, the development was initially carried out taking into account the expected withdrawal of the United States from the INF Treaty, and subsequently it was reported that the actual range of the missile would be at least 550 km, and according to a number of sources, it is realistic to achieve a range of 700-750 km (that is, the PrSM missile is a “shorter” range missile in terms of the INF Treaty).US Army units will receive next-generation Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) precision-guided missiles in fiscal year 2027, and the military will receive the basic version of PrSM in 2023. An improved missile will be able to hit moving targets. It is noted that the new generation PrSM will be able to hit mobile ground and surface targets. The range of PrSM will also be increased.”

Two PrSM missiles instead of one ATAXdouble the combat capabilities and at least triple the range of the M142 HIMARS

The specified terms of combat deployment of complexes with PrSM missiles can be significantly reduced, taking into account the military-political situation in Europe. And their delivery to Poland is predetermined by the fact that missiles of the previous ATACMS modification are already being delivered there.

In fact, we are talking about the creation and adoption of non-nuclear long-range missile systems, which, due to the high accuracy of targeting and the sufficient power of conventional ammunition, are capable of hitting an object with even greater reliability than a conventional nuclear bomb with a probable deflection coefficient of several tens or even hundreds of meters.

The emergence of such combat systems radically changes the rules of armed struggle and actually equalizes the chances of a nuclear and non-nuclear power in the theater of operations of modern warfare. Despite the fact that a nuclear power still has a monopoly on weapons of mass destruction, their use on the territory of an adversary country and area objects like cities can be significantly hampered by both political and physical negative consequences of such strikes.

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