The US Army’s First Cavalry Division arrived in the port of Ventspils Wednesday, landing five Abrams tanks and 12 Bradley armored combat vehicles to take part in the operation Atlantic Resolve. The formidable force also known as ‘Ironhorse’ made its way along the Kurzeme highway toward the base on Riga’s northeastern outskirts, where it will be replacing the US airborne brigade that had been deployed at Ādaži.
The heavy gear will be used in the joint Atlantic Resolve exercises planned amongst the allies, as well as for the operations Combined Resolve II, Saber Strike, Rapid Trident and Saber Guardian.
"The purpose is to be a very visible demonstration of commitment to our allies," Captain John Farmer, public affairs officer for the Ironhorse, formal designation of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division told Reuters news agency.
"We may take slightly longer to deploy than lighter forces, but there's nothing like a tank if you really want to achieve effect."
The U.S. military says it is the first time it has had to ship armoured reinforcements to Europe since the end of the Cold War at the start of the 1990s.
Down on the ground, there are no plans to send Ironhorse troops and tanks right up to Russia's border. But officials say that is as much down to practical considerations about churning up roads and causing disruption as to any diplomatic factors.
"Everyone loves tanks," said U.S. Army Capt Farmer. "But they can make a real mess."
U.S. troops and tanks will deploy across the three Baltic states in the next two weeks on a mission designed to deliver an unmistakeable message of NATO resolve to Moscow.
Meanwhile the Silver Arrow exercise, which launched on Monday and lasts until October 6, involved the largest number of British soldiers ever to participate in a drill in Latvia. The large-scale drill is meant to improve integration of soldiers between different national battalions, thus the British forces will work under Latvian command this week and vice versa.
“For a soldier this is the sort of exercise, where we have the chance to understand each other and how we would operate together if ever required to. It gives everybody confidence, that if we were ever required to conduct the collective defence we would be well positioned to do so,” Colonel Hamish Cormack, Commander of 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster's Regiment told Sargs.lv.
Also this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday the The Baltic Region Training Event 19 (BRTE 19) focused on training interoperability and cooperation between NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP).
On 30 September and 1 October, ten aircraft from five NATO nations trained together at Amari Airbase in Estonia with a total of six fighters from PfP members Finland and Sweden on how to cooperate in different aerial scenarios. The training was supported by a NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane and a US Air Force tanker aircraft.
For six years, this training event has taken place in the Baltic States three times a year. Due to the augmentation of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) forces in spring this year, it was possible during BRTE 19 to draw on more flying assets already deployed in the region to ensure diverse training scenarios.