On the 10th anniversary of NATO’s unanimous decision to develop a capability to protect the Alliance’s European members from ballistic missile threats, the Alliance recently celebrated the agreement between Romania and the United States to establish NATO’s land-based ballistic missile defense system in southern Romania at Deveselu Air Base. Romania continues to play a key role in boosting the security of the Alliance through its airbase, Romanian Air Force Base 57 at the Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport, and its port, the Port of Constanța on the Black Sea, that are involved in annual exercises with the United States and NATO. Their willingness to host a ballistic missile defense system for the deterrence and defense of Europe from Iranian missile attacks is to be commended. Recent events in Israel have reminded us of the vital importance of missile defense systems when offensive capabilities and deterrence fails.
Russian threats to the European continent continue to grow. Russian forces continue to intrude on European airspace. Russia has deployed massive numbers of ground troops to its border with Ukraine, and Russia has pre-positioned advanced military equipment, including Iskander-M missiles with ranges beyond the recent INF treaty limitation of 500km. These Iskander missiles are nuclear-capable and possess the capability to strike Poland, the entire Baltic region, and Germany, where critical NATO logistic and command posts are located. Russia clearly violated the INF treaty by deploying long-distance fires to strike deep in Europe in excess of the treaty limitations, causing the United States to withdraw from the treaty.
Russian aggression in Europe has forced change as the U.S. Army V Corps was reactivated on October 16, 2020 at Fort Knox and charged with the responsibility of planning and executing large-scale ground combat operations in Europe. In a joint decision by the Department of Defense and Department of State, Poznan, Poland was selected as the Army V Corps’ forward operating headquarters. The re-activation of the U.S. Army V Corps in 2020 highlights the requirement of Fires integrated both Offense and Defense at the Corps level. Continent-wide military exercises that enable Corps level command and control, integration of Fires, Brigade Combat Team maneuvers, and missile defense of critical-asset missile defense against simulated Russian threats. In order to be effective, the United States Army and its Corps must withstand long-distance fires from cross domains and have its own capability of long-distance fires to strike back.
In this forced change of integrated Corps Fires to address Russia, the Army Futures Command announced last month that the U.S. Army has Fielded the first Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) system for the 5-4 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, located in Ansbach, Germany. The M-SHORAD system combines the mobility of the Stryker A1 combat vehicle armed with a 30mm gun, an onboard sensor capability with a mounted Stinger missile package, capable of mobilizing with Army Combat Maneuverable Brigade Teams in their defense against air threats. The introduction of M-SHORAD into the European theater after two decades is a step towards defending Combat Brigade Teams countering Russian unmanned aircraft system (UAS) threats.
The development of M-SHORAD, including its future potential as a laser-capable system, provides an impactful, proportionate, and cost-effective response that would help alleviate the demand for the U.S. Patriot forces to deal with these Russian-backed asymmetric threats. With only one Patriot Battalion in Europe, the U.S. Army Patriot force is far too small to defend critical assets such as tactical assembly areas, C2 nodes, and U.S. Army garrison locations. The U.S. Army has to defend its Maneuvering Force, in order for its Corps to be effective in deterring Russian aggression. Various U.S. Army Europe exercises take place annually, but none of them holistically get to practice, train and rehearse the relationship between air-and-missile-defense and maneuver support, and incorporate the protection of critical logistical hubs such as the V Corps, simultaneously against cross-domain air and missile threats.
In order to sustain lasting peace and security for our Europe, NATO must execute both offensive and defensive integrated allied cross domain fires at the Corps levels and demonstrate that integration in joint multinational ground live-fire training exercises at the Corps level that allows for both integrated air and missile defense, long-distance fires, and maneuver support, while still giving ample attention to ensuring the protection of NATO’s key logistical centers in coordination with offensive forces. The United States and its allies and partners must invest more time and resources into Formidable Shield, Astral Knights and Defender Europe 2021 combining them as a series of joint multi-domain offense and defense exercises that will demonstrate resolve and deterrence to those observing the exercises.
“Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy” – General George S. Patton.