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A U.S. Air Force loadmaster offloads a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, in Liepaja, Latvia, on Sept. 26, 2022. The mobile rocket systems are being flown to the Arctic, the Baltics and beyond as the U.S. Army puts a spotlight on a weapons system that is gaining attention for its effectiveness on the battlefield in Ukraine.

A U.S. Air Force loadmaster offloads a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, in Liepaja, Latvia, on Sept. 26, 2022. The mobile rocket systems are being flown to the Arctic, the Baltics and beyond as the U.S. Army puts a spotlight on a weapons system that is gaining attention for its effectiveness on the battlefield in Ukraine. (Izabella Workman/U.S. Air Force)

American mobile rocket systems are making the rounds in Europe on a tour stretching from the Arctic to the Baltics and beyond as the Army shows off a star of its arsenal that has garnered attention as a godsend to Ukraine.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, was firing Tuesday in Sweden’s High North on a short-notice mission that began hours earlier with troops taking flight aboard a special operations C-130 flying out of Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

“It provides us an opportunity to showcase a weapons system that right now there’s a lot of interest in across our allies and partners,” Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commander of the Wiesbaden, Germany-based 56th Artillery Command, said in an interview Wednesday.

The mission resembled a similar one days earlier in Latvia, where American HIMARS were sent in support of combat readiness drills in the Baltics. Over the summer, U.S. artillerymen did the same in Denmark.

The 56th, which was activated one year ago to enhance the Army’s ability to carry out long-range precision strikes in Europe, is increasingly finding itself at the center of high-profile training missions on the Continent.

Enter the HIMARS, which has gotten extra attention from allies for the instrumental role the system has played in helping Ukraine exact a heavy toll on Russian ammunition depots, command-and-control hubs and other high-value targets.

“It’s not really surprising, based on the news about HIMARS performing in Ukraine, that many of our allies and future allies are considering requesting a HIMARS purchase,” Maranian said.

But while the HIMARS drills give allies a chance to see the system up close, the missions serve a larger purpose, Maranian said.

“The most significant reason that we do these exercises is to demonstrate the long-range reach, of being able to put a precision long-range-fires system on the ground in short order,” he said.

Deployment of the system within hours anywhere from the Arctic to the Black Sea sends a signal to adversaries such as Russia, Maranian said.

For U.S. Army Europe and Africa, the prominent role artillery now routinely plays during training exercises underscores how much the service has evolved on the Continent in the past few years.

While the Army experienced a sharp reduction in troop levels during a long post-Cold War drawdown, the service at the time of Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014 also had been stripped of most of its firepower.

The last battle tanks left the Continent in the months before Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula that same year, and artillery units also had departed.

Gradually, the Army began bringing back its armor and artillery, which are regarded by commanders as crucial to countering an adversary such as Russia.

While air and sea power also are key to U.S. military efforts in Europe, the Continent remains “ground-centric domain,” Maranian said.

“What we’re seeing out to the to the east right now just demonstrates that more than ever,” he added.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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