Ash Carter, the US Defence Secretary, said Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria have agreed to host American military equipment in order to reassure NATO allies against Russia’s aggressive stance and their actions in Ukraine.
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) June 23, 2015
Carter confirmed, during a joint press conference with the defence ministers from the Baltic States, that one armoured combat brigade team’s vehicles and equipment will be temporarily deployed to countries in central and eastern Europe.
In an analysis published earlier in June, we explored the idea of deploying an heavy armoured brigade to reassure NATO allies in the region. Although the deployment of tanks and other combat vehicle gave us a clear idea of US intentions, the decision to deploy such a force in both Romania and Bulgaria does not come as a surprise.
Each NATO country will receive enough supplies to host a company, around 150 soldiers, or a battalion, which would see the number increase to 750 soldiers per nation. The supplies includes ammunition, fuel, spare parts, water, rations and other vital elements to sustain a deployed group. It also includes the tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), and self-propelled artillery.
Carter stated that the US will closely work with the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, in Estonia, to further develop NATO’s ability to develop critical infrastructure protection planning and enhance cyber defence strategies.
NATO is also building six new military bases in Eastern Europe to host its Rapid-Response Forces, capable of responding to threats within three days.
A quick overview of the deployed armoured vehicles
The M1A2 Abrams is armed with a 120mm L/44 M256A1 smoothbore gun. Its effective range is 4,000 meters with a DM63 round. Its hull offers significant protection against most anti-tank weapons. With an operational range of 425 km, the Abrams is a formidable tank and has been combat proven on many fronts.
The Bradley IFV is armed with a 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun and carries more than 900 rounds. Variants of the Bradley can fire TOW missiles. Its operational range is more than 480 km and can carry 7 passengers, infantryman ready to conduct ground operations. The Bradley IFV have been designed to keep pace with the M1 Abrams tank and offer them infantry support.
As for the self-propelled howitzers, the US Army will most likely deploy its famous M109A6 Paladin. Equipped with a M284 cannon that fires 155mm rounds, the Paladin can fire conventional ammunition up to 24 kilometres and reach more than 30 km with the rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) rounds. Its operational range is more than 344 km and needs a crew of 6.
Logistical, command and control, reconnaissance and engineer support vehicles will most likely be deployed to support the armoured vehicles.
The US has clearly taken another step in NATO’s eastward march. Russia will most likely strengthen its military presence on its borders with NATO countries to counter its deployment. Such a deployment would not come as a surprise and will undoubtedly deteriorate the already-fragile relation between NATO and Russia.