US Army howitzer shipment halted by German police

A U.S. soldier from 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, drives an M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer off of a flatcar in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, on Jan. 9, 2017. Police in Germany on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, halted the shipment of six U.S. Army M109 howitzers because they lacked the proper paper work.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 11, 2018

STUTTGART, Germany — A small convoy carrying six U.S. Paladins near Germany’s border with Poland came to a halt after authorities found the shipment violated transportation rules, U.S. Army Europe said.

Police pulled the convoy over Tuesday near the eastern German town of Bautzen.

The howitzers, which were being transported by a Polish contractor, were too heavy and too wide for the trailers they were loaded upon, USAREUR said. The company also lacked the proper transportation paperwork for the six heavy vehicles.

The Paladins, which resemble tanks, have been at a roadside rest stop while the contractors work to transfer them onto approved transportation vehicles, USAREUR said.

“The transportation change necessitated additional escorts from the unit who are currently expected to arrive Friday and, upon their arrival, movement will continue on to Hohenfels Training Area in Germany,” USARUER said.

For the Army, finding ways to efficiently move heavy gear around Europe has been a challenge. The Army lacks sufficient numbers of heavy transport vehicles that meet European road rule standards. That means the military often relies on allies and contractors for assistance when moving tanks on the highway.

The crew of contractors also had been driving longer than regulations allow. Such trucks are only authorized by the German government to travel between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. to minimize traffic disruption, USAREUR said.

The convoy was traveling from Poland, which has become a key point of operation for the U.S. Army in Europe and the site of numerous training activities for a U.S. tank brigade maneuvering throughout NATO’s eastern flank.

The Paladins are to take part in military exercises in the coming days in Hohenfels as part of Allied Spirit VIII, a multinational exercise that starts Monday at the Army’s training grounds in Bavaria.

Twitter: @john_vandiver