TechU.S. and Allies Prime for Largest NATO Drills Across Europe

U.S. and Allies Prime for Largest NATO Drills Across Europe

Transport of American equipment - illustrative photo
Transport of American equipment - illustrative photo
Images source: © US Army | Georgios Moumoulidis
7:18 PM EDT, April 8, 2024

American ships embarked on a journey to Europe on April 4, transporting tons of military equipment for the DEFENDER 24 maneuvers, Europe's largest American army exercises. These exercises involve over 17,000 U.S. soldiers and 23,000 soldiers from over 20 allied and partner countries. The exercises in 13 countries, including Poland, are ongoing until May 31, potentially causing road disruptions.

DEFENDER 24 is a crucial NATO exercise aimed at deterrence and enhancing readiness from April 4 to May 31. These maneuvers are connected to the NATO Steadfast Defender 24 exercises and encompass three main parts: Sabre Strike, Immediate Response, and Swift Response. A USAREUR-AF press release focuses on strategically deploying forces from the continental USA, utilizing pre-positioned American army supplies, and promoting interoperability with allies.

The Sabre Strike exercises, centered on the Baltic Sea region, are scheduled from April 21 to May 31 across the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia, as highlighted by Defence Romania. Concurrently, Immediate Response exercises are set to take place in Sweden, featuring troops from the USA, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Swift Response maneuvers, planned for May 14 - June 14, will unfold in Poland, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, and Lithuania under the supervision of American Rapid Response Forces, encompassing field and command-level exercises.

The Armed Forces Support Inspectorate has indicated that DEFENDER 24 exercises may lead to significant movement of military equipment through Poland. The General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways stated, "Until the end of May, military vehicles will be in motion across almost all voivodeships, on motorways, expressways, and other roads."

Observers may notice unusual signs beside the roads denoting Military Load Classification (MLC). These symbols represent the "permissible total weight of vehicles on the MLC scale," which differs from the scale used for civilian vehicles in Poland. As clarified by GDDKiA, these symbols are relevant only to military drivers.

The DEFENDER 24 exercises serve as a comprehensive readiness test in crisis situations. They examine the U.S. army's capability to rapidly deploy a significant number of troops and equipment from America and assess the host countries' preparedness to accommodate them. These exercises aim to showcase NATO's strength and deter potential adversaries.

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