The Air Force has delivered its largest shipment of ordnance to Europe since NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign in the Balkans, a move that is part of a broader rearmament on the continent.
The 86th Munitions Squadron at Ramstein Air Base recently processed about 100 containers filled with various munitions.
The Air Force declined to comment Monday on the weight or composition of the containers; however, a 2016 Army ammunition delivery of 415 containers totaled about 5,000 tons.
“The munitions that we received will be used for future theater operations and the evolving U.S. European Command presence,” Master Sgt. David Head, squadron munitions operations section chief, said in the Air Force statement.
The last Air Force delivery of such size happened during Operation Allied Force, a 78-day campaign in which allied aircraft flew some 900 sorties in response to ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo.
The new stockpiles will augment Air Force pre-positioned stocks, Master Sgt. Arthur Myrick, 86th MUNS munitions flight chief, said in a statement.
They can also be used to support the European Deterrence Initiative — a military campaign intended to bolster allies and deter potential Russian aggression.
For the past four years, stockpiling weaponry has been a focal point of U.S. military efforts in Europe. The buildups are part of an effort to boost U.S. European Command’s combat readiness and compensate for a force that has dwindled in size since the Cold War.
The Army also has steadily added to its stockpiles in Europe. In 2016, the Army had one of its largest ammunition shipments to the Continent in 20 years. In a crisis, forces from the U.S. could deploy to Europe and tap into strategically placed reserves.
The U.S. has long maintained weaponry in Europe, but those stocks — in some cases left over from the Cold War – were reported to have been depleted by the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya and Syria.
The arrival of the latest Air Force shipment coincides with the launch of Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest exercise since the end of the Cold War. About 50,000 alliance troops are joining the war games centered in Norway, including some 12,000 from the United States.
Larger war games and the accelerated operational tempo in the EUCOM area has kept the military’s ammunition teams busy.
“We’re a major airlift hub for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, so our main job is to get munitions where they need to be on time,” Myrick said in the Air Force statement. “These are real-world munitions to fulfill real-world objectives. That’s the reason we are downloading these things: to make sure we have the capability to move the fight forward if need be.”
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