Hundreds of US tanks roll through Germany

With 20,000 soldiers, it is the largest US troop transfer to Europe in 25 years: Germany becomes the central hub in the “Defender Europe” exercise – with hundreds of tanks on roads, rails and water.

In Europe and the USA, the final phase of preparations for a massive show of strength has begun: US forces are rehearsing with NATO partners to deploy enormous forces in a short time for a war in Eastern Europe. A large part of the war material comes from the USA and is transported right across Europe – with Germany as the central hub.

Next week, the military will discuss details in a Berlin barracks. But much is already known. The exercise may lead to disruptions in many parts of Germany – and is a challenge for the Bundeswehr.

When will there be disruptions? The exercise will start in January. The main deployment period of the US forces in Europe runs from February to May. From the USA alone, there are 8,600 wheeled vehicles and more than 1,100 tracked vehicles. However, the majority of these will not be moved east until April and May. During the Easter holidays (Easter Sunday is 12 April), the situation is expected to remain quiet. On the roads, transports are to be on the move mainly at night, so that there are few disturbances. From mid-May onwards, the return transport will begin. It should be completed in July. Military convoys will be on the road again then – but not so many vehicles in a short time.

How do material and soldiers get to Europe?

For relocations, machines will land at the airports in Berlin-Tegel, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg and Ramstein, according to State Secretary of Defence Peter Tauber. Bremen could be added. Only a fraction of the material will arrive by plane. Battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, howitzers and other equipment will be delivered by ship. From the ports of Antwerp, Vlissingen and Bremerhaven, the journey will later continue through Germany.

How is the traffic in Germany?

Some of the material is transported further by water. The inland ports of Duisburg, Bremen and Krefeld are planned for this. The heavy equipment will be transported mainly by train. But there will also be a lot of military on the roads. Three large axles are planned in Germany: From Düsseldorf it will continue on a northern route via Hanover and Magdeburg to Frankfurt/Oder. The southern route from Dusseldorf will lead via Mannheim, Nuremberg and Dresden to Görlitz. In addition, convoys are planned from Bremerhaven in a north-south direction along a connection Hanover – Frankfurt/Main – Mannheim.

Can the structures cope with this?

The preparations go back a long way: fixed routes were checked to see whether they were designed for the heavy loads. Tanks and other large US Army equipment were inspected, weighed and measured in Mannheim by the Bundeswehr Logistics School. The exercise was also the occasion throughout Europe to renovate or reinforce structures accordingly. However, the military experts do not rule out the possibility that the heavy equipment could also cause damage.

Where will the exercise take place?

The exercise covers ten countries, focusing on Poland and the Baltic States. Within the larger scenario, there are also other exercise scenarios and locations in Germany. In Grafenwörth in Bavaria and at the Bergen training area in the Lüneburg Heath, combat will also be practised. Part of “Defender Europe” will also be the handling of additional attacks in cyberspace. New equipment and common secure communication will be tested. A total of 37,000 soldiers from 18 countries will practice. In addition to the 20,000 US soldiers from the USA, 9,000 are already stationed in Europe.

Is all the material being shipped from the USA?

No. In addition, the US Army also takes out war material that is usually kept in huge guarded warehouses. From a total of four so-called “Army Prepositioned Stocks” 13,000 vehicles and containers are to be brought in. In Germany there are such warehouses in Dülmen, Miesau in the Palatinate and temporarily in Mannheim. Within 96 hours, the material is to be complete with the combat units. An armoured brigade of the National Guard will receive M1 tanks as well as Paladin howitzers from European storage locations of the US Army for the exercise.