Military Capabilities

Covid-19: ‘Defender-Europe 20’ scaled down

18 March 2020

Some of the 3,000 pieces of equipment that were sealifted for ‘Defender-Europe 20’ being unloaded at Bremerhaven, Germany, on 21 February. Source: US Army/Jason Johnston

The size and scope of Exercise 'Defender-Europe 20', scheduled to take place in Central and Eastern Europe and Georgia in April-May 2020, has been reduced because of the Covid-19 outbreak, US Army Europe (USAREUR) has announced. "As of 13 March, all movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe has ceased," USAREUR said in a press release on 16 March, citing military and civilian health, safety, and readiness as the primary reasons.

Four exercises linked to 'Defender-Europe 20' will not take place - 'Dynamic Front', the 'Joint Warfighting Assessment', 'Saber Strike', and 'Swift Response' - and US forces already deployed to Europe for other linked exercises will return to the United States.

A USAREUR spokesperson told Jane's on 17 March that the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade had been ordered to halt movement and redeploy to their home bases.

The Dutch Ministry of Defence announced on its website on 13 March that the movement of an entire US combat brigade from the Dutch port of Vlissingen to Eastern Europe had been cancelled.

USAREUR said in its press release that it expected the armoured brigade combat team (ABCT) already deployed to Europe to conduct gunnery and other joint training with allied forces as part of a modified exercise 'Allied Spirit'. The spokesperson identified the ABCT as the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade, which is the next annual rotation to Europe under 'Atlantic Resolve' and will train with allies, including in remaining 'Defender-Europe 20' training activities.

Reiterating that 'Defender-Europe 20' aimed "to build strategic readiness by deploying a combat credible force to Europe in support of NATO and US national defence strategy", the USAREUR press release said the US Army had exercised its ability to co-ordinate large-scale movements with allies and partners.

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