Rivaled only by the unsettling grins coming out of that new horror movie Smile, Ukrainian forces have now given a U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launcher its own menacing smirk of a paint job. The artwork turns many HIMARS memes that have made their rounds on social media into a spooky reality.
The image, which Ukraine credits to Hannibal Hanschkу, was posted by the official Twitter account of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. However, it is unclear when exactly the photo was taken. The image shows a green HIMARS launcher that seems to be pulling out onto a nondescript road in Ukraine painted with a Cheshire Cat-like smile full of a disconcerting amount of teeth.
The grin appears to be directly inspired by the HIMARS memes that started taking off on the internet once the United States began sending the launchers to Ukraine this summer. While the meme’s official origins are difficult to nail down, the unnerving and mischievous smile is meant to emphasize the menacing and powerful nature of the weapon. Basically, if you had to imagine an anthropomorphic HIMARS fully loaded with guided rockets patiently waiting to obliterate a Russian ammunition stockpile dozens of miles away, this is pretty much what would come to mind.
It’s safe to say that the smile communicates that message well online, but in real life, it sure is something to see. The long, thin expression stretches all across the front of the vehicle and even wraps around the sides of the cabin.
Whether or not this is the first sighting of such a paint job for a HIMARS in Ukraine, which it appears to be, it isn’t the first time Ukrainian forces have given one of their donated vehicles a set of meme-inspired hell teeth. Photos of a similar paint job have been circulating online for at least a month, showing a U.S.-supplied Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV)-series truck being used by the Ukrainian Army donned with a more detailed Cheshire Cat grin. This time around, two feline eyes can be seen outlined below the FMTV’s front windows.
Both the FMTV’s and the HIMARS’s sets of ghoulish chompers tip a hat to the massive and loyal global internet following Ukraine has gained since Russia invaded over eight months ago. The most well-known manifestation this support has taken is in the form of the nebulous North Atlantic Fellas Organization, or NAFO, which is an online army of Ukraine supporters, many with 'doge' avatars in their profiles, that specialize in trolling Russia and pushing out counter-narratives to their claims. This includes steadily debunking Russian propaganda and, of course, curating memes.
Despite being undecorated, HIMARS are having their own Halloween moment stateside, as well. In participation with the U.S. Army’s Fort Sill in Oklahoma, a video posted to the installation’s Twitter today showcases the launcher’s lesser-known secondary trick-or-treat role. Positioned at a local parking lot, the HIMARS can be seen gently firing bursts of candy at a rapidly advancing group of costume-clad kids.
HIMARS is one spooky machine for the enemy, no doubt about that. Now it will be interesting to see what other ‘nose art’ of sorts will show up on Ukraine's other 17 launchers.
Contact the author: Emma@thewarzone.com