Europe's largest annual US-led artillery exercise underway in Germany
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 7, 2019
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The echoing “kaboom” of high-explosive artillery shells is being heard around the Grafenwoehr Training Area this week as part of the largest annual U.S.-led artillery exercise in Europe.
More than 3,200 soldiers from 27 countries are testing out NATO’s new counter artillery-fire doctrine, which it previously lacked, during Exercise Dynamic Front 19.
“Counter artillery is a critical doctrine for any military,” said Col. Joe Hilbert, the commander of Operations Group for Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels. “The ability to take out the artillery of the opposing force, removes a strategic capability that they need, and gives you an advantage.”
While the United States has had contingency plans for what to do if their own artillery gets shelled by the enemy, the NATO alliance has lacked a cohesive counter battery fire doctrine in its game plan until now, military officials said.
“The U.S. has its own counter battery fire doctrine, and individual NATO allies have their own doctrine, but NATO doesn’t have a specific doctrine in place,” said Maj. Andrew Champion, the higher command officer in charge of the exercise.
The Army took the U.S. counter artillery fire plan and applied it to the large-scale multinational artillery exercise this week, Champion said.
This year’s exercise is the first Dynamic Front to take place in multiple countries.
While U.S. troops and allies are conducting the artillery-based war games in Germany, artillery will be firing simultaneously in bases in Poland and Latvia.
Additionally, this year the exercise is making use of more than triple the amount of the long-range multiple launch rocket systems as last year, with 24 MLRS vehicles supporting 62 howitzers.
The extra rockets bring additional capabilities to the soldiers, like the ability to launch anti-tank mines as well as highly precise rocket fire up to 55 miles away, said Maj. Andreas Leischner, commander of the German artillery battery at the exercise.
“You can shoot behind a skyscraper (50 miles) away, exactly on a target, and have no collateral damage,” said Leischner. “It’s not like artillery in the former days, where whole areas are destroyed.”
The live fire portion of the exercise began March 2 and will continue until this weekend.