U.S. Army Sends Its Best Tanks to European War Game
Armor troops practice full-scale fighting in Germany
The U.S. Army and its European allies are rehearsing a major land war in Germany. And they’re sending some of the sophisticated armored vehicles in the world.
Exercise Combined Resolve II is supposed to “replicate a complex operating environment” for NATO troops—that is, fighting a high-tech enemy with armor, artillery and other advanced equipment.
A high-tech enemy like Russia, which is still threatening to invade eastern Ukraine.
More than 4,000 troops from 13 nations are currently descending on American bases in Germany. The Pentagon says Combined Resolve II is its biggest European exercise planned for this year.
Notably, the Army is putting to use its new European Activity Set for the first time. The EAS is a stockpile of M-1A2SEPv2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles, stored in warehouses at the Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
The multi-million-dollar M-1A2SEPv2 is arguably the best tank in the world, with a powerful 120-millimeter cannon, a secret blend of shell-resisting armor and the latest sensors and communications.
The idea behind the activity set is that the tanks and other armored vehicles will always be in Europe, in top condition and ready for use. Armor crews from the U.S. can fly in, pull the vehicles out of storage and roll straight into training … or combat.
The EAS is supposed to make up for recent Army drawdowns in Europe that created a heavy armor gap. The Army’s last permanently-stationed tank units left Europe in 2013.
The Abrams and Bradleys warehoused at Grafenwoehr are now the only ones in the country. The 173rd Infantry Brigade in Italy has no tanks and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany only has Stryker wheeled vehicles.
But now 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas, is falling in on the stored vehicles, trying out the stockpile concept as part of Combined Resolve II … and boosting NATO strength as the alliance stands up to Russian aggression.
The Fort Hood troopers got the vehicles out of storage on May 5. Logisticians then loaded the tanks and fighting vehicles onto train cars—depicted here—and hauled them to Parsberg for onward road travel to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels, the war game’s main setting.
Combined Resolve II will culminate in live-fire target practice back at Grafenwoehr.
Increasing tensions with Russia give the exercise a distinctly Cold War flavor. Separately from Combined Resolve II, American troops are also training with soldiers from Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
But for all its sophistication, the current war game is tiny compared to Pentagon war rehearsals in the 1980s. More than 100,000 American troops trained in Germany during exercise REFORGER 88.
Still, America’s European allies are no doubt happy to see the Army roll out the big guns.