Pabradė, Lithuania, 23 May 2017
Training and exercises are all in a day’s work for the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Lithuania. This time, the German and Dutch combat companies are undertaking a high-intensity delaying operation in the training area at Pabradė, Lithuania, with reinforcements from combat and mission support.
Very realistic operational conditions
The soldiers and combat vehicles have been equipped with tactical engagement simulators consisting of sensors and transmitters. Hitting one of these with an eye-safe laser beam triggers an acoustical signal.
“Barrier warfare and coordinating dismounted forces during combat in wooded terrain are highly complex topics,” says the commanding officer of the German mechanised infantry company, Captain Ingolf S. It is always a challenge, he explains, to synchronise firing and movements by mounted and dismounted forces in broken terrain
Roles swapped after two daysThe final stage
“The Dutch mechanised infantry company is attacking for the first two days,” explains one member of the battlegroup, Captain Andreas M., “while the German mechanised infantry company, with support from Dutch antitank forces, has the mission to delay their attack for at least 16 hours.” After two days, the two sides swap roles.
Around 350 soldiers are taking part in the exercise altogether, with 27 tracked vehicles ranging from battle tanks to armoured engineer and infantry combat vehicles.
Stage one: delaying operations begin
The woods are flooded in sunshine, the birds are singing and a light cool breeze stirs among the branches. The peaceful scene is an illusion, however. Part of the Bravo platoon of German mechanised infantry lie in wait near a forest track. Everyone keeps absolutely still. The men’s alertness is tangible.
Suddenly, a low rumbling echoes through the woods as if from nowhere. It is the engine noise from the enemy’s armoured infantry fighting vehicles. The Dutch vehicles slowly approach the infantry positions. A shot rings out, and the gun battle starts. After a short while, the squad leader receives a radio message: “Bravo One to Bravo Two. Enemy changing tactics: Dutch soldiers dismounting from vehicles.” Now the Germans have to respond quickly.
Brief commands fly back and forth. Everyone knows what needs to be done; practised a thousand times, every move is now second nature. A moment later, rifle shots and machine-gun fire rend the air as Bravo platoon engage the attacking enemy. These otherwise peaceful woods are playing host to a 96-hour extended combat exercise.
Shifting into attack mode
“There are two choke points for the attacking side. One is a bottleneck in the woods with log barriers and targeted antitank mines; the other consists of two bridges over the river. It may be necessary to make an auxiliary crossing there by means of an armoured vehicle-launched bridge,” as Captain M. explains. This is where the engineers come into their own, since establishing a bridgehead with an adjoining waterway crossing is one of the key focuses of this exercise.
During the attack, the Aladin drone provides essential reconnaissance in real time. After providing cover for their comrades-in-arms as they opened up the barriers at the bottleneck, the infantry forces have dismounted from their armoured fighting vehicles a few hundreds metres before the river. Now, alongside the engineers, they work their way through the woods to the crossing point.
The final stage
As soon as the barbed wire is cut, the infantry storm across the river and establish a bridgehead on the opposite bank. The deep rumble of the Biber armoured bridgelaying vehicle is heard, and ten minutes later the new bridge is in place. The armoured infantry fighting vehicles roll across the river straight away to support the mechanised infantry’s attack on the higher ground. To the north, Leopard 2 battle tanks have approached to secure the flank with their long-range cannon. Once the high ground has been captured, the four-day exercise is over.
Well-equipped for the next phase
The commander of the battlegroup, Lieutenant Colonel Huber, is extremely satisfied with the way the exercise has gone, as all the training objectives have been achieved. Visibly proud, he reports that he “saw major training successes for all participants during this challenging 96‑hour exercise”. All the requisite conditions are therefore in place, he says, for the upcoming combined-arms live-fire exercise and the Iron Wolf exercise in June.
This is the translation of an article by Elisabeth Rabe and O. Richter published on www.bundeswehr.de