The U.S. Army Is Sending More Tanks to Europe
Troops haul heavy armor all the way from Texas
U.S. Army troops from the 1st Cavalry Division are headed for NATO’s eastern border as the Ukraine crisis keeps churning. And these soldiers are bringing Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles all the way from Fort Hood in Texas.
Detachments from 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry will spend the next few months training with America’s friends and allies in the region. This unit is a so-called “combined arms battalion” with tanks and fighting vehicles.
The force will also take over from American paratroopers who have been in Eastern Europe since April. The Pentagon has been rotating troops through the region since Russia forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region earlier this year.
But the M-1 tanks and M-2 fighting vehicles are a new twist. Previous troops from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team have no heavy armor.
Of course, tanks and other armored vehicles were already major features at recent NATO gatherings. Back in May, American soldiers trotted out their Abrams and Bradleys during major war game in Germany called Combined Resolve II.
But the ground combat branch pulled out the last permanent tank units in Europe last year. A pool of Abrams and Bradleys—the European Activity Set—in storage in Germany are the only such vehicles on the continent at present.
Troops drove vehicles from the EAS stockpile during Combined Resolve II. In October, another battalion of soldiers from the 1st Cav will pull these tracks out of storage again for the third iteration of that exercise.
In the end, this relatively small shipment of heavy gear from the States to Europe is probably a first in over 20 years. Until 1993, the Pentagon prepared to blunt a Russian-led invasion by rushing thousands of troops across the Atlantic.
During the Cold War, the Army planned to send large units to fight in Germany. Now, smaller company-sized elements from 2–8 Cav—between 100 and 200 people each—are on their way to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as the Bundesrepublik.
Washington hopes these training exercises will reassure its European allies as the crisis in Ukraine simmers. The Pentagon says insurgents fighting Kiev are getting “tanks, armored personnel carriers, rocket launchers, air defense equipment and other heavy weapons” from their Russian benefactors.
With what’s happening next door, Poland and Baltic States are probably especially happy to host the Americans and their heavy vehicles—even if only temporarily.
At top—Bradley fighting vehicles from the 1st Cavalry Division start their journey to Europe. Army photo