VILNIUS - A new rotation of U.S. soldiers to be deployed in Lithuania, with heavy combat equipment, will begin service on Oct. 1, reports ELTA. The shift will come from the 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, stationed in Texas. It will take over from the infantry personnel of U.S. Army Europe’s 173rd Airborne Brigade currently deployed in Rukla.
The first 75 soldiers have been planned to arrive via Riga Airport already last week with the rest of the 160-strong rotation to come later.
The military will be stationed in Rukla, like the previous shift. Their heavy combat equipment consisting of seven Stryker armored personnel carriers, eight Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and two M113 tracked armored personnel carriers, were expected to arrive via Klaipeda Seaport on Oct. 1 and then to reach Rukla by rail.
U.S. contingents have been deployed in Lithuania, other Baltic States and Poland on a rotational basis since April as a response to the changes in the security situation after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The United States is maintaining a military presence of roughly 600 infantry personnel in the Baltic States and Poland.
Allies have also increased the protection of airspace and the sea of the Baltic region.
NATO allies are sending additional fighter jets to patrol the airspace above the Baltic States and Poland. Currently six F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from the Portuguese Air Force and four F-18 Hornets from the Royal Canadian Air Force are maintaining high readiness at the Siauliai Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force, from where the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission is conducted.
Four German fighters are patrolling the Baltic airspace from the Amari Air Base in Estonia while additional fighter aircraft from the Royal Netherlands Air Force are deployed at the air base in Malbork to enhance the protection of Poland’s airspace.
Meanwhile, Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group ONE (SNMCMG1) comprising 8 vessels is on a permanent standby in the Baltic Sea. The Group is under the command of Commander Giedrius Premeneckas of the Lithuanian Navy in the second semester of this year.