The Army recently announced the reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command in Europe, which was deactivated in 1991 following the signing of the now defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The move is one piece of the larger puzzle the service is solving about how to place its multi-domain task forces in effective positions for competition, and potentially conflict, against key adversaries, such as the Russian and Chinese militaries. .
The unit will “allow further synchronization of joint and multinational fires and effects, as well as the employment of future long-range surface fires in the U.S. Army Europe and Africa area of responsibility” , Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, who heads the 56th Artillery Command, said in a statement Tuesday.
The command will “plan and coordinate” the use of multi-domain fires in theater, according to the statement. The official reactivation ceremony is scheduled for November 8.
Army leaders develop doctrine around the concept of multi-domain operations and units such as MDTFs to coordinate information and fires across the force network. If effective, task forces would enable commanders at various echelons to strike anytime, anywhere, from any platform.
The 56th Artillery Command was the last active unit in Europe from 1986 to 1991 as the “Theater Pershing Missile Headquarters”, according to the statement. Now that the INF
Army Times reported in September the activation of the Army’s second MDTF – the first in Europe. The very first MDTF was activated in 2019 under the US Army Pacific. The headquarters of this unit is at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, with a focus on the Chinese military.
The European-based MDTF and 56th Artillery Command are located primarily in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, and focus on Russian military influence on the continent.
A third MDTF is planned for the Pacific. The army has not yet specified its activation date.
While this unit was officially created in a ceremony in Wiesbaden, Germany, an element of the task force was already conducting fire drills in Norway, nearly 900 miles away.
At the time, Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, said the task force would bring an important capability to the theater.
The MDTF has a headquarters element, an intelligence, cyberspace, electronic warfare and space detachment, as well as a brigade support company.
The Task Force Concept’s first use of steel-on-target was during a joint live-fire exercise conducted during Rim of the Pacific in 2018. This strike hit a Navy ship from multiple plat -forms.
Upon activation of the Europe-based MDTF in September, the command sent portions of the unit to Norway for fire support and engagement in Exercise Thunder Cloud.
The exercise included soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade, who fired M31 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems from the M270A1 MLRS.
They also used a high-altitude balloon system to coordinate fires that hit a target at sea, 20 kilometers off Andoya, Norway, according to an army statement.
Todd South has written about crime, the courts, government and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Navy veteran of the Iraq War.