U.S. European Command commenced this year’s Getica Saber exercises in Romania on Monday with artillery and mortar fire. The exercises anticipated to continue through Saturday will see U.S. and Romanian forces working to “integrate and “synchronize” their defensive capabilities against the possibility of Russian incursion.
Paladin mobile artillery launchers and M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems were used to launch coordinated volleys of fire that would provide fire-cover to infantry or armor units in a real combat scenario.
What we’re really working on is integrating and synchronizing the delivery of joint fires and combined fires in support of a brigade combat team. As the brigade combat teams carry out their maneuvers, they will rely on the artillery to provide backup support and defend them from enemy ground attacks,” said Army Col. Kelly Webster, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery Brigade.
Although the United States has been heavily involved in the Global War on Terror for the past 16 years, EUCOM and America’s NATO allies have begun adjusting their focus on the region to more traditional warfare possibilities. Russia’s military annexation of Crimea in 2014 has prompted a resurgence of Cold War era tensions along Europe’s eastern flank, making such exercises more important than ever to U.S. and European commanders.
For the last 16 years, we’ve been working in an environment where we controlled the airspace, without any ‘near-peer’ threats that challenged that control. We have to be prepared to encounter near-peer threats in the future, and we need to be able to deflect any air-based threats,” said Army Capt. John Strickland, a public affairs officer with the 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
He added, “It’s about preparing to fight an enemy that has similar capabilities to what we bring to the table.”
The practice artillery and mortar fire provided by both U.S. and Romanian forces would be used to engage enemy artillery placements, but also to take out anti-aircraft assets that could potentially threaten America’s air superiority in a battlefield of the future.
“If we’re facing an enemy that has surface-to-air capability, we need to defeat that capability to get our infantry into the area,” he said. “We need to protect the aircraft that are out there transporting or supporting the ground troops.”
Live fire exercises that include infantryman, tanks and artillery are expected to commence later in the week.
U.S. and Romanian military leaders are sharing office space for the duration of the exercise, with Romanian units providing the day-to-day administrative support. The decision to integrate command elements speaks to the allies’ commitment to integrating the assets of each nation in a matter more effective in combat. Although the two nations use different hardware and often non-compatible software, leaders from both nations believe the physical proximity allows them to quickly work to resolve technical issues.
“Having combined our headquarters and theirs into one headquarters, we can both operate our computerized systems in a very timely manner,” he said. “It’s a very efficient workaround that we’ve found since we’ve started the exercise.”
Getica Saber ’17 is also placing an emphasis on using so-called “analog” systems, or systems that are less susceptible to cyber-attack. While much of our defense infrastructure relies on maintaining network connectivity, Timothy Lemley, lead planner for Saber Guardian 2017 (running concurrently in and near the Black Sea), explained that the U.S. and its allies must be prepared to fight when those systems go down.
If we look towards sort of the future warfare aspect of things, we’re looking at all kinds of area-of-denial, computer denial and denial-of-service attacks, where we might have to operate in an analog environment,” he said. “So, working with these countries that work primarily in an analog environment gives us the opportunity to experience that.”
Images courtesy of the Department of Defense