Striking Russia By Proxy: Britain Passing More American Rocket Artillery Onto Ukraine

The British Defence Ministry is set to increase supplies of rocket artily systems to the Ukrainian Army, after London led the Western world in pressing for arming the Eastern European state with such weapons. Such arms shipments, the provision of accompanying training to Ukrainian forces, and embedding of Western officers in Ukraine for logistics, targeting support and a range of other roles, have created further difficulties for Russian military operations in the country. “Britain will also give a significant number of precision guided M31A1 missiles which can strike targets up to 80km away, enabling Ukraine to continue to defend itself against Russian heavy artillery. The decision comes following the successful use of multiple-launch rocket systems by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, gifted by the UK earlier this year,” the ministry announced regarding is arms transfer plans. It elaborated regarding the purpose of the delivery, specifically to engage Russian forces, “this latest tranche of military support will enable the Armed Forces of Ukraine to continue to defend against Russian aggression and the indiscriminate use of long-range artillery. Our continued support sends a very clear message, Britain and the international community remain opposed to this illegal war and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, providing defensive military aid to Ukraine to help them defend against Putin’s invasion.”

The M31A1 missile arms the M270 rocket artillery system which first entered service in 1983, providing the system with a precision strike capability using GPS guidance. This has allowed the weapons system to be used in urban environments, such as those in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas regions where fighting is currently focused. The first M270s were delivered by Britain weeks after the Russian-Ukrainian War began, with Germany set to deliver further units and holding over 100 in storage. Norway has also donated units to Britain for later transfer to Ukraine. Although capable particularly when equipped with new munition types, the M270 has been superseded by the M142 HIMARS system which first entered service in the U.S. Military in 2010, and which has also been delivered to Ukraine. As artillery has played an increasingly central role in the Ukrainian theatre, Russian state media sources have suggested that the country could receive support from North Korean rocket artillery units, with Russia itself having placed a relatively low emphasis on such capabilities since the end of the Cold War despite successfully updating its arsenal with the new 9A52-4 Tornado system.