Four US A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes are taking part in war games in Poland, as the nation expects about 10,000 NATO forces at drills this year. Moscow says the military build-up at Russia’s borders will have a negative long-term impact.
The Pentagon acknowledged that over 1,000 American troops based in Europe have recently been moving across Eastern Europe to participate in the military exercises. The operation is set to “demonstrate the freedom of movement that exists within NATO,” according to military spokesman Steven Warren.
Another point of Russia’s concern is the possibility of US weapons deliveries to Ukraine. The conflict-torn country is already facing large-scale international drills instructed by the US this April, which are set to last until November. President Poroshenko said they mean “integration to the biggest defense structure in the world,” Interfax reported.
“Weapons supply activities from the US to Ukraine are fraught with a failure of a shaky truce in Donbass and outright threaten Russia’s security,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, pointing out that it undermines the Minsk agreements and calls into question the plans of the US, as well as NATO.
At the beginning of March, six NATO warships participated in naval drills in the Black Sea. The operation, headed by the US, included anti-air and anti-submarine exercises. The 3.5 month series of joint exercises commenced in Bulgaria. About 350 US army officers, as well as US tanks, helicopters and armored personnel carriers, came for the drills.
The military exercises are supposed to come as a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which aims at “reassuring NATO allies and partners of America’s dedication to enduring “peace and stability” in the region” following the recent developments in Ukraine.
In the Czech Republic, where anti-war activists launched the ‘Tanks? No thanks!’ campaign in order to protest against what they called a “provocative victory parade” near the Russian border, people were instructed not to throw tomatoes or eggs at a US military convoy, as they could face charges of up to three years behind bars.
Last Saturday, Lithuania’s capital Vilnius saw the start of operation Dragoon Ride – a convoy of US military vehicles, mostly IAV Stryker APCs, heading to a base in the German town of Vilseck in Bavaria via Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and the Czech Republic. Lt. Gen Ben Hodges, the commanding general of US Army Europe, described the route as NATO’s Eastern European allies “that live closest to the Bear.”
For more than a month, Soldiers from the 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2D Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division, trained alongside their joint and combined partners for their debut participation in the Republic of Korea Army’s Integrated Firepower demonstrations Aug. 7-28 near Pocheon, South Korea.
The massive capability demonstrations were conducted for public viewing five times throughout the month and included a variety of assets from both the U.S. Army and Air Force.
In addition to the tanks, helicopters and jets previously seen in the 2012 event, this year’s lineup showcased the brigade’s Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and Paladin self-propelled howitzers.
“This is a unique opportunity for us because it allows us to practice with all elements of the Army alliance here in Korea,” said Maj. Elijah Ward, operations officer for 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, whose battalion specializes in the MLRS platform. “This is an exercise where we can see what other units get to do, and we get to see how they all fit in the big picture.”
On Wednesday, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak (who is also deputy prime minister) said that he approved of the constant presence of NATO troops in his country. “We are striving for it and we are talking about it. We are preparing ground for the constant presence,” TASS quoted him as saying. Around 10,000 allied forces are expected to take part in this year’s drills.
– Video above: Camp Casey, South Korea
Due to its unparalleled lethality, versatility and range, the U.S. Army has used the MLRS for nearly 27 years. The 210th Field Artillery Brigade maximizes its lethality with three dedicated MRLS battalions, all of which participated in the event.
Success of the MLRS platform, in addition to working alongside their U.S. counterparts, has allowed the ROK Army to find the strategic value in the weapon’s utility and decided to use them for fire and counterfire operations within its own formations.
“The MLRS is currently one of the strongest field artillery weaponry system,” said Lt. Col. Tae-Hun Kim, the battalion commander of 5000th Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Brigade, 6th Division. “It is a vital part of the defense of the Korean Peninsula.”
“Even though it is our first time being in a part of the demonstration, but it is an honor to show our strength and procedures to the citizens of Republic of Korea,” added Kim. “Furthermore, participating this event with our sibling units made this exercise much more meaningful.”
During the demonstrations, three launchers from each country’s Army shared tactical positions and targets. The ROK command post then received “call for fire” signal, which is then transferred to six MLRS crews simultaneously to fire at the same time, said Ward.
Having successfully completed such an alliance-strengthening event with the ROK Army and spending every day for five weeks in the same compound with their ROK allies, the brigade’s crew members were able to establish a positive rapport and trust among their counterparts.
In addition to reinforcing the mission essential skills of each Soldier, the brigade’s Soldiers educated themselves on the culture of the respective armies: How they think, operate and execute their missions.
“There is something different when the Soldiers work and live next to each other,” said Ward. “It is this partnership that makes us strong. This exercise allows us to see that, we are partners in alliance.”
In addition to firing the first U.S. rockets from the ROK range, troops also encountered a few more firsts, including the integration of live-fire exercises with multiple types of units among combined and joint partners.
“In an artillery brigade, you only get to see artillery units,” said Ward. “We have learned a lot about how we use MLRS when we have troops maneuvering in proximal range and we have airplanes up in the sky.”
Through “maintaining and developing positive relationship” between both field artillery units and their combined-joint partners, the alliance will be able to summon coordinated artillery fire power at any time of need.
“I think the biggest thing here is establishing the relationship between ROK 5000th Battalion, and other maneuver units out here with our assets,” said Capt. Jason Yu, commander of Battery A, 6th Battalion, 37th FA Regiment, 210th FA Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “Seeing how it would look like in a coordinated scheme of maneuver. Learning about each other’s capabilities and movements out in the battlefield is the key component we learned so far.”
“This exercise really demonstrates our capabilities in case of provocations from the north,” added Yu, a Chappaqua, New York, native. “It really shows the great firepower we have in defense of South Korea and how we operate together in the real environment.”