Baltic Response Force – Together. US Army Deploys Self-Propelled Howitzers To Lithuania.
The Joint Lithuanian-Latvian-Estonian Battalion has started an exercise, the aim of which is to prepare the soldiers to act within the structures of the NATO Response Force. Meanwhile, the Americans have deployed the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers within the territory of Lithuania. These will be involved in several exercises, including some operations that would involve the Polish Soldiers.
The BALTBAT unit, which is declared to become a part of the NATO Response Force in 2016, consists of ca. 700 soldiers. According to the information released by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence, the element consists of four company-sized units (including two Estonian elements, along with a single element provided both by the Lithuanian and Latvian Armed Forces respectively), anti-tank platoons from Lithuania and Estonia and a Latvian mortar platoon, along with support and command elements.
The first exercise that would involve all the elements of the BALLTBAT unit is currently being carried out in Latvia. The unit will also be involved in the Saber Strike and Trident Juncture operations, where the latter one, involving more than 25 000 troops, is planned to happen in Italy, Portugal and Spain. The Trident Juncture exercise is said to be the key element of the certification process for the NATO Response Force for the year 2016.
Meanwhile, the US military has deployed a minor element equipped with the 155 mm M109A6 self-propelled howitzers in Lithuania. The unit is to be involved in the Fire Thunder 2015 exercise. According to the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence, this operation would involve the forces from Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and the US. Paladin howitzers have been transported to the port of Klaipėda. The Lithuanian Army currently has no armament of this class at its disposal. Negotiations regarding the acquisition of the German PzH 2000 howitzers are currently on the go.
The US Armed Forces, within the scope of their rotational presence, have deployed a small armoured element in Lithuania, consisting, among other vehicles, of 5 M1A2 Abrams tanks. Such vehicles were also involved in the first exercise in history, that involved the use of the main cannon of the Abrams tank, that was organized within the Lithuanian territory.