Poland Purchases 486 American HIMARS: Rocket Artillery Buildup Places Russia in Crosshairs

The Polish government has approved plans for the acquisition of 486 HIMARS rocket artillery systems, which will be mounted on Polish made Jelcz 6X6 trucks as part of a joint project with American’s largest defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak stated regarding the acquisition: “Our goal is to create a situation in which a strong Polish Army will actually deter the aggressor, and we will do it… As I have declared many times, within two years, Poland will have the strongest land army, and one of the most important components of this army will be rocket artillery.” Poland’s heavy investment in rocket artillery systems comes as these kinds of assets have been assessed to have a played a particularly central role in the Russian-Ukrainian War. Poland previously ordered HIMARS systems in 2019, with the asset class initially proving highly effective in Ukraine before Russia developed more advanced countermeasures to disrupt their guidance. The systems currently deployed by the Polish Army serve under the 16th Mechanised Division. Beyond HIMARS acquisitions, in October 2022 the Polish government signed a $6 billion framework agreement for the acquisition of 288 South Korean K239 Chunmoo rocket artillery launchers and thousands of 239mm rockets and 600mm missiles. The two assets combined will provide Poland with one of the largest arsenals of guided rocket artillery systems outside East Asia. 

HIMARS systems notably take significantly longer to deliver and have only around half the ammunition capacity of the Korean Chunmoos, with the latter having been ordered alongside K2 tanks and K9 mobile howitzers in 2022. Major purchases of high end Korean hardware is expected to revolutionise the capabilities of Polish ground forces. Much like the Chunmoo, HIMARS can fire either guided rockets or ATACMS ballistic missiles – with the latter being assets that have not yet been introduced into the Ukrainian theatre. Polish contractors are notably expected to produce HIMARS ammunition under license as part of the country’s efforts to build up its defence sector for ground equipment – for which it has received considerable American support. With HIMARS reported by familiar U.S., British, and Ukrainian sources to be “increasingly less effective” against Russian forces as Russian Army countermeasures have improved, however, it remains uncertain to what extent future expected modifications to the system will be able to overcome these difficulties.  

Poland’s ground force buildup comes as the country has been among the most committed to ensuring a Ukrainian victory over Russian forces. Polish military contractors have played very significant roles in the war effort, with the head of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin, for one, having reported deployments: “Well-trained enemy units are now being tossed into Bakhmut. Polish speech all day long. While I used to say there were few mercenaries, now there’s a large number of them.” Ideologically motivated Polish volunteer fighter units have also had an important presence on the frontlines in Ukraine, with the Polish Volunteer Corps having been prominently involved in an assault on Russia’s Grayvoron District in May. The country has emerged as by far NATO’s leading military spender as a portion of GDP, with expenditures expected to exceed four percent of GDP.