The move comes amid the reductions of the number of American troops stationed in Germany.
As you may already know, the United States are planning to drastically reduce military personnel currently stationed in Germany. Among the units affected by the reductions we can find the 480th Fighter Squadron “Warhawks” of the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base. The unit will in fact move its 28 F-16CM-50s to Aviano Air Base in Italy, where they will join the 510th FS “Buzzards” and 555th “Triple Nickel” of the 31st FW, flying the F-16CM-40.
The move was announced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on July 29, 2020 during a joint briefing with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, and Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). According to Esper about 12000 troops will move out of Germany starting from the next weeks, with 6400 of those returning to the US, leaving only 24000 troops in the country.
The 100th Air Refueling Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing were scheduled to relocate to Ramstein and Spangdahlem respectively in the near future, prompting the closure of their current homebase RAF Mildenhall, but now this relocation has been canceled and both units will remain in the UK. Ramstein Air Base will not undergo any additional changes. Initially the 480th FS was rumored to be relocating to Poland, but this was never confirmed.
Esper was quoted saying during the briefing “It is important to note that in NATO’s 71-year history, the size, composition and disposition of U.S. forces in Europe has changed many times. As we’ve entered a new era of great-power competition we are now at another inflection point in NATO’s history. I am confident the alliance will be all the better and stronger for it.”
According to the Department of Defense, the relocation of the troops is also a further implementation of the dynamic force employment that would see units abandoning permanent bases, vulnerable to attacks, and be ready to quickly deploy where needed. Periodically, unit based both in Germany and in the US will continue to deploy to different locations in Europe, a move also dictated by the National Defense Strategy to counter Russia (as in this case) and China.
Along with the Warhawks, ground units and command centers are being moved as well: among those we can find the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (a brigade-sized Stryker infantry and cavalry unit), US European Command (EUCOM), US Africa Command (AFRICOM), Special Operations Command-Europe and Special Operations Command-Africa.