'Fire in the Fog' as Army Launches Rocket Artillery in Europe for First Time in 16 Years

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Soldiers load reduced range practice rockets to be used during a live-fire exercise January 27, 2020, Grafenwoehr, Germany. (Spc. Zachary Stahlberg/U.S. Army)
Soldiers load reduced range practice rockets to be used during a live-fire exercise January 27, 2020, Grafenwoehr, Germany. (Spc. Zachary Stahlberg/U.S. Army)

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- A blaring hiss above a blanket of fog signaled the Army's launch of rocket artillery in Europe for the first time in 16 years.

The Multiple Launch Rocket System barrage at this sprawling training area began in about 10 feet of visibility, as the fog hung over a forest clearing Monday.

The visibility didn't affect the 41st Artillery Brigade's performance; the systems use electronic positioning to find and destroy targets. The fog was actually a bonus for the soldiers -- it "added to their concealment,” brigade commander Col. Seth Knazovich said.

The exercise marked the culmination of a long-term effort by U.S. Army Europe, as part of its mission to deter Russia along NATO's eastern borders.

In 2017, U.S. European Command told Congress they needed a long-range fires brigade, which led to authorization that year for the Army to increase its numbers on the Continent.

The brigade arrived in Europe in 2018, and they've been training and preparing to launch their rockets ever since.

The MLRS, long a staple of defense for the Army in places like the Korean Peninsula, drastically increases the Army's firing range in Europe.

Howitzers used by the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade stationed in Europe have a range of less than 20 miles. The MLRS can hit targets more than 100 miles away, though Monday's exercise used reduced-range practice rockets.

Placing the rocket troops in Germany is "a display of our continued commitment to NATO and our collective resolve to support European security,” the Army said in a statement.

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