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.
M-1A2 tanks from the EAS stockpile train in Germany during Combined Resolve II. Army photo
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.
One battalion of armored vehicles, split roughly evenly between tanks and Bradleys. Call it 60 armored vehicles give or take a few.
Spill asked me about this the other day.
Until the EAS was established, there were precisely zero US tanks in Europe for about a 1 year period.
Flash back to the end of the Cold War, say, 1990, when I was in Europe.
There were two corps, four divisions, two separate heavy brigades, and two armored cavalry regiments. Very roughly, 54 maneuver battalions, at around 60 tracks each. That’s 3240 armored vehicles. That doesn’t count the war reserve stocks maintained there. Nor does it count the POMCUS sites with sets of vehicles for stateside units to fall in on and take to the field.
2/8 Cav may be a fine unit, but a single battalion isn’t really going to have the Russians quaking in their boots.