The U.S. Marine Corps Just Sent Tanks to Bulgaria
New task force is all about staring down the Russians
The U.S. Marine Corps now has tanks–along with other armored vehicles and howitzers–at a base in Bulgaria. Take a leap and guess why. Yes, the new task force is all about staring down the Kremlin.
Since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014, the Pentagon has dramatically expanded its presence in Eastern Europe. The new unit is just the latest part of the campaign to reassure Washington’s allies in the region, dubbed Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The so-called Combined Arms Company has four heavily armed and armored M1 Abrams main battle tanks, according to Marine Corps Times. Each tank boasts a 120-millimeter main gun. The Marines also brought six amphibious Light Armored Vehicles–including LAV-25 variants armed with 25-millimeter automatic cannons–and specialized LAV-R recovery vehicles.
To top it off, the Marines brought along three M-777 155-millimeter howitzers.
An official Marine Corps article explained how the service went about getting the vehicles to their destination, the structure of the company and what the Marines’ mission will be.
The heavy equipment arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany, Sunday, and is bound for Bulgaria. The tanks, artillery, and light armored reconnaissance vehicles will be loaded on trains and moved across Europe demonstrating our allies’ and international partners’ ability to move heavy equipment across the region to support operations during a crisis.
Using this equipment, Marines will train alongside allies’ and partners’ mechanized units collectively improving combined arms skills and anti-armor tactics. Accompanied by more than 160 Marines, the tanks, artillery, and light-armored reconnaissance vehicles comprise the Combined Arms Company. The unit will make up part of the Black Sea Rotational Force, but will be based at the Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria.
“The transportation of a Marine Corps combined arms capability in the Black Sea region has fostered improved communication and coordination with the allied force and its partners,” said Lt. Col. John Sattely, director of logistics for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. “The result of this collaboration and coordination is that the various agencies and organizations involved are familiar with each other now rather than learning about one another after a crisis happens.”
The Marine Corps stood up the Black Sea Rotational Force at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in neighboring Romania in 2010. Since then, Marines make regular stops across Eastern Europe to hone their skills with friends and allies.
According to an official pamphlet, the task force:
– Demonstrates the U.S. commitment and maintains strategic access across the Caucasus and Black Sea regions through theater security cooperation and security force assistance.
– Provides a robust U.S. engagement plan while minimizing costs—the best “bang for the buck” in Europe.
While Marines visit Novo Selo every year to work with their NATO allies, the new Combined Arms Company will be stationed there on a semi-permanent basis. Leathernecks can now expect to rotate through regular deployments to the facility.
The new contingent will increase the overall size of the existing task force by around 150 percent. As of February 2015, there were some 260 Marines with the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania, according to an official briefing. Two months later, the Marine Corps sent another 200 troops from its Africa-focused unit in Spain to help out.
With the fighting nearby Ukraine flaring up again, the Marines can probably expect to be in Eastern Europe for the foreseeable future.