The United States has sent three Marine Corps aviation units to Eastern Europe and Germany to bolster NATO’s eastern flank further. Along with the 400 US Marines, the US has also deployed 10 F-18 Hornet fighter jets, 6 EA-18G Growlers, and “a couple of Marine Corps C-130s” as the Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to be still picking up steam despite Moscow’s pledges to ease military activity in Northern Ukraine.
According to Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby, some 200 Marines assigned to Marine Air Control Group 28’s command-and-control unit based from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, were repositioned to Lithuania following exercise Cold Response in Norway. He reports that they are already in Lithuania.
The 10 F-18 Hornet fighter jets and C-130s from Beaufort, South Carolina, were also going to be repositioned to Eastern Europe. However, Kirby said that they did not have an exact destination for them as of the present time. This repositioning will also involve 200 Marines, making a total of 400.
When asked if these deployments were to help fulfill the 14,000 troops the US had previously committed to send to Europe, Kirby answered that it was not about numbers and that they were just making sure to have the “right capabilities.”
“And so, you know, we put some on ‘prepare to deploy,’ and we sent some forward. It is about options. It’s not about a number goal. It’s about capabilities and making sure that we’ve got the right capabilities,” he explained. “And it’s based on constant conversations with our NATO allies on the eastern flank,” he added.
This follows the recent deployment of some 6 EA-16G Growler electronic attack jets from the US Navy to Europe last Monday to increase further NATO’s ability to jam radars. These electronic attack jets were said to have arrived at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany last Tuesday. The squadron reportedly was from the Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-134 “Garudas,” which is currently based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. This deployment was comprised of some 240 crew and pilots.
According to the US Navy, the EA-18G Growler combines the F/A-18F Super Hornet with an advanced and sophisticated electronic warfare suite which was said to retain the F/A-18E/F’s multi-mission capabilities. The aircraft was said to feature the latest electronic attack technology the US Navy can offer, which includes the ALQ-218 receiver, ALQ-99 tactical jamming pods, ALQ-227 Communication Countermeasures Set, and Joint Tactical Terminal – Receiver (JTT-R) satellite communications. It can reportedly carry 3 ALQ-99 tactical jamming pods and 2 AIM-120 air-to-air missiles as well as 2 AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM)
“These Growlers are equipped for a variety of missions, but they specialize in flying electronic warfare missions, using a suite of jamming sensors to confuse enemy radars, greatly aiding in the ability to conduct suppression of enemy air defense operations,” Kirby explained in his statement.
However, Kirby said that the deployment was not to be used against Russian forces but rather to be “flexible” and was just an effort to increase NATO’s deterrence efforts and defense capabilities in the eastern flank. It was reportedly not in response to any threat or incident. The deployments were also done in consultation with NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe (SACEUR) and Commander of the US. European Command (EUCOM) US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters.
“As we have said all along, the Secretary wants to keep options open. He is in constant consultations with General Wolters, and as a result of discussions with General [Tod] Wolters, as well as the German government, this was deemed to be an additional move that could continue to bolster our deterrence and reinforce our defenses on the eastern flank. This deployment is a prudent decision to continue to reevaluate our force posture on NATO’s eastern flank,” said Kirby in a statement.
Kirby also emphasized that these deployments from the Navy and the Marines collectively were not attached to the NATO Response Force but were being deployed in coordination with the alliance. Simply put, they are being sent there not as part of NATO but could possibly be used by the alliance if they are needed.
According to a report by the Marine Times, the US troops deployed in Europe now amounts to 12,000 soldiers. This comprises 4,700 US Army Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division currently stationed in Poland and some 3,800 soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team 3rd Infantry Division sent to Germany. In Romania, some 1,000 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment also stand ready, along with 800 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stationed in Latvia.
It can also be remembered that 100 F-35s were sent to Estonia, Lithuania, and Romania earlier, with 100 AH-64 Apaches being sent to Poland and the Baltics. The Growlers in Germany will be greeted by 300 soldiers from the XVIII Airborne Corps and 300 maintenance soldiers. Furthermore, 300 soldiers from the Army’s V Corps are also present in Germany and Poland, with the addition of 150 airmen from the KC-135 Stratotanker squadron also stationed in Spangdahlem, Germany.
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