June 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. military has moved its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from Jordan into southern Syria. This would mark the first time the weapon system has been deployed to the country.
The HIMARS will be stationed in the vicinity of the U.S.-Coalition training base at At Tarif to support operations there. The long-range battlefield missile represents a large boost in long-range firepower in the 55 km deconfliction zone around the base.
"We have increased our combat power in that area," U.S. Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters earlier this month at the Pentagon. "We have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat that is presented by the pro-regime forces,"
While troops at At Tarif are primarily there to support the fight against ISIS, tensions and conflict have been rising with pro-regime forces in the area. An F-15E Strike Eagle recently shot down an Iranian-made drone after it dropped a dud munition near coalition troops.
There have also two airstrikes against pro-regime militia positions in the zone around At Tarif, with another happening in May.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis endorsed the strikes, tell the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that "those are self-defense strikes and the commander on the ground has the authority to take whatever action necessary and I support that."
The HIMARS has been used to support Syrian Democratic Forces in its offensives against ISIS along with conventional artillery before, but from positions in northern Iraq. This move directly into Syria is a response and deterrent to pro-regime forces in and near the zone, who have been moving their own artillery into the area.
HIMARS is a wheeled Multiple Launch Rocket System that can fire up to six rockets at a time. Depending on the model, the rockets can carry submunitions for area suppression or a single unitary blast warhead. It can also use the Army Tactical Missile System, a long-range battlefield missile with a range of over 180 miles.