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Reactivating the 56th Artillery Command in Europe: Making US Army Europe and Africa More Competitive

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The US Army recently announced the reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command in Europe. This announcement constitutes part of a larger project: Multi-Domain Operations aiming at countering two key military actors in the international environment: China and Russia. Indeed, the first Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) was activated in 2019 by US Army Pacific, focusing on countering the Chinese military influence in the region. US Army Europe and Africa activated the second MDTF to counter the Russian military influence in their area of responsibility. In September 2021, this Europe-based MDTF tested a high-altitude balloons system in Norway. Those tests are enshrined in Thunder Cloud. They constitute a real opportunity to improve strike capabilities for Long-Range Precision Fires. It is a top modernisation priority regarding the international security environment and the need for enhancing large-scale ground combat operations. While US Army Pacific is constrained to this specific region and its own objectives, this European unit will focus more on land operations, being composed of HQ elements, land, air, intelligence, cyberspace, electronic warfare and space detachment, and a brigade support company.

In the same vein, the reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command in Europe aims at improving the Europe-based MDFT’s competitiveness and improving its ability to play a key role in conflicts, if needed, against the Chinese and Russian military powers. Indeed, the Artillery Command precisely aims at the planning and coordination of multi-domain fires’ uses in operational theatres.

This reactivation is a possible scenario since the US formally withdrew in August 2019 from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Signed in 1987, the INF Treaty obliged the US and the Soviet Union to eliminate all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a large range. Therefore, this Treaty was crucial to the security of the Alliance for decades. However, since 2014, the US has expressed several complaints about Russia’s alleged disrespect and breaches of its obligations under the INF Treaty. Those were reinforced by further repeated allegations until 2018, followed by Trump’s announcement to suspend the US obligations. Unsurprisingly, Putin suspended the Russian’s obligations, too, leading to a mutual abandonment of the INF Treaty.

The official reactivation of the Artillery Command will occur at an official ceremony on 8 November. In the future, a third MDTF is planned for the Pacific region, but an official activation date has not yet been released.

Written by Téa Coen