US Revives Cold War Nuclear Missile Unit To Deploy Against Russia

November 26th, 2021 - by Joseph Trevithick / The Drive & Connie Dickey / USAG Wiesbaden Public Affairs

M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System opens fire in Germany.

58th Artillery Command Returns to Germany After 30 Years.
Ground-launched Missiles Are Key in Conflict with Russia

Joseph Trevithick / The Drive

 (November 24, 2021) — The 56th is co-located in Mainz-Kastel with the Army’s second so-called Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF). The service’s MDTFs, the first of which was established at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, are still-evolving units that are being used as testbeds to explore the introduction of new weapons and other capabilities. They are expected to have an operational role, especially in any future high-end conflict against a major opponent such as Russia or China. 

“The reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command will provide US Army Europe and Africa with significant capabilities in multi-domain operations,” Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Maranian, the head of the newly revived unit, said in a statement on Nov. 3. “It will further enable the synchronization of joint and multinational fires and effects, and employment of future long-range surface to surface fires across the US Army Europe and Africa area of responsibility.”

Maranian’s mention of “future long-range surface to surface fires” is clearly a reference, at least in part, to two new missile systems the Army hopes to begin fielding in the next few years — Dark Eagle and Typhon.

Dark Eagle is the still relatively new name for the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), which it is developing as part of a joint program with the US Navy. The service is already in the process of standing up the first battery that will be equipped with these missiles, each of which carries an unpowered hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, as part of the MDTF at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

US missile launchers returning to Germany.

Typhon, which the Army has also referred to as its future Mid-Range Capability (MRC), is a multi-purpose system that includes launchers and fire control systems that will be able to employ various types of missiles.

At present, the service plans to use Typhon to fire land-based derivatives of the Navy’s SM-6 missile, which has air- and missile-defense capabilities as well as the ability to strike surface targets, along with ground-launched versions of the Tomahawkl and-attack cruise missile. The Army is expected to use its version of the SM-6 as a surface-to-surface ballistic missile.

The Army is in the process of acquiring a new conventionally armed ballistic missile, the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), which could eventually have a range of over 310 miles. There has been talk in recent years about the service fielding other new longer-range ballistic missiles, as well.

The Army’s Typhon weapon system.

There is historical significance to reactivating the 56th Artillery Command, specifically, to oversee the future employment of these weapons in Europe. Dark Eagle, Typhon, and a future extended-range PrSM, would all have previously been banned under the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which collapsed in 2019.

The United States and the Soviet Union signed this agreement in 1987. The INF entered into force the following year, and both sides implemented the provisions even as the Soviet Union collapsed and a new Russia emerged in 1991.

The treaty was directly responsible for the removal of the Pershing II missile from Army service, which was then a key factor in the decision to stand down the 56th just over three decades ago. US Air Force units armed with the BGM-109G Gryphon, an earlier ground-launched Tomahawk variant, were also eliminated as a result of the INF.

Though the US and Russian governments continue to talk about possible follow-ons to the INF, as well as other future arms control arrangements, the return of the 56th makes clear that the Army is preparing to deploy units armed with weapons like Dark Eagle and Typhon to Europe on some level in the coming years. Those deployments may ultimately be rotational or otherwise non-permanent due to the willingness, or lack thereof, of even America’s NATO allies to host these weapons.

At the same time, while the Army’s revival of the 56th is clearly linked to its future missile capabilities, the unit will also have a broader and perhaps more important role simply as a hub for managing all its artillery units across Europe. This includes those that will be equipped with new longer-range howitzers and rocket artillery. In recent years, the service has already been steadily standing up new units in the region to go along with these new capabilities, as it has broadly refocused its attention, on preparing for a potential conflict with Russia. 

Army leaders have warned for years now that the Russian Army has clear advantages in artillery capabilities, as well as in raw numbers of self-propelled howitzers and rocket launchers. Any future conflict in Europe would almost certainly see the relatively rapid deployment of additional artillery units to the region, which would then need higher-level commands to manage their operations.

This is one of the 56th’s core jobs, along with acting as a focal point for coordinating Army artillery elements with units from other services, as well as NATO allies and other partners, who would likely be fighting alongside American troops in any potential high-end fight in the region.

A US Army briefing slide from 2018.

The MDTF at Mainz-Kastel is a key element in all of this, as well. This unit would likely be in direct charge of actually employing new weapons and other systems, such as Dark Eagle and Typhon, as well as advanced networking capabilities that will improve the effectiveness and flexibility of artillery and other Army units in general. I

n a prime example of the kinds of experimentation these task forces are engaged in, the European MDTF brought high-altitude balloons carrying sensors and communication nodes to an exercise in Norway this past September. The Army’s 41st Field Artillery Brigade, a rocket artillery unit that was stood up in Germany in 2018, participated in that drill and used the balloons to help find and engage targets at extended ranges.

“If you look at echelons above brigade, what we’re having to do is build out our capacity to fight large-scale, campaign-quality combat,” now-retired Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, who was then serving as the deputy commander of Army Futures Command and head of its Futures and Concepts Center, told reporters last year. “Those echelons we have mortgaged a bit in the last 20 or 30 years because our BCTs [Brigade Combat Teams] were so powerful relative to our opponent.”

The return of the 56th Artillery Command to Germany after more than 30 years underscores just how vital the Army sees artillery, including new weapons, such as Dark Eagle and Typhon, being in a future major conflict in the region, potentially one involving Russia.

56th Artillery Command Re-activates
As Theater Fires Command in Wiesbaden

Connie Dickey / USAG Wiesbaden Public Affairs

WIESBADEN, Germany (November 8, 2021) — US Army Europe and Africa re-activated the 56th Artillery Command as the Theater Fires Command Nov. 8 on Allen Field at Clay Kaserne. It will be headquartered with the 2nd Multi-Domain Task Force on Mainz-Kastel.

The colors of the 56th were uncased and the 56th Artillery Command’s Command Sgt. Maj. Darrell Walls handed the colors to Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commanding general of US Army Europe and Africa, who in turn handed them to Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, commanding general of the 56th Artillery Command, who accepted his command of the unit.

In his remarks, Cavoli said that the re-activation marks another milestone for the US Army and US Army Europe and Africa and is crucial in planning and coordinating the employment of multi-domain fires and effects.

Maranian thanked the 56th Artillery Command’s staff for their work during the past two years getting ready for their move to Wiesbaden, while performing exercises and thanked the Installation Management Command Europe and Wiesbaden garrison for the support provided during the command’s move here.

Prior to the ceremony, Maranian said, “The reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command will provide USAREUR-AF with significant capabilities in multi-domain operations.”

Maranian also said, “It will further enable the synchronization of joint and multinational fires and effects, and employment of future long range surface to surface fires across the USAREUR-AF area of responsibility.”

The 56th Artillery Command will plan and coordinate the employment of multi-domain fires and effects in support of US Army Europe and Africa and/or a combined joint force land component command. The Theater Fires Command improves readiness and multinational interoperability by the integration of joint and multi-national fires in theater operations and exercises.

The 56th Artillery Command was initially activated as the 56th Coastal Artillery Brigade in September 1942 and saw combat during World War II in Belgium, Northern France, Central Europe and Rhineland.

It went through inactivations and activations throughout the years and was formally inactivated in 1991, marking the end of the Cold War.


Alice S — Sending missiles back to Germany is not the way to defuse tensions with Russia.  But the US abrogated the INF Treaty, and this is one result. 

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