The U.S. Army and its closest allies have a problem. The region of the world where they arguably are most likely to deploy its heaviest vehicles for high-tech combat also is peppered with flimsy old bridges that can’t support the vehicles’ weight.
And the Army for one is struggling to buy armored bridge-layers that can help to mitigate the problem.
The requirement is clear. To deter Russia from attacking Poland and the Baltic States, the Army and its NATO allies should deploy heavy armored forces such as M-1 tanks, armored fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery.
RAND, a California think-tank with close ties to the U.S. military, in a February 2020 report underscored the importance of heavy ground forces.
“The results of the analysis provide consistent evidence for the deterrent effects of heavy ground forces and air-defense capabilities,” RAND explained, “especially when deployed in the general theater of interest but not necessarily on the front lines of a potential conflict.”
An Army regiment with 300 Stryker wheeled vehicles is the only mechanized American force permanently in Europe. The Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade also is based on the continent.
The ground-combat branch recently returned to Europe a battalion of tracked rocket launchers. A second battalion is slated to join it in 2020, at which point the service will have around 18 rocket launchers on the continent.