In an effort to meet an increasing demand for heavier formations to counter the Russian threat in Europe, the United States Army has announced that they will fold an Infantry Brigade Combat Team in order to stand up an Armored Brigade Combat Team.
Reportedly taking place in the summer to come, 4,200 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd IBCT will be converted to an ABCT, equipping the Fort Stewart, Georgia-based unit with M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
“The conversion of an IBCT to an ABCT better postures the Army to meet the defense strategic guidance by developing force structure capabilities to…retain overmatch in key warfighting functions,” Army director of force management Major General Andrew Poppas said in a recent Army press release.
The announcement follows mere months after the service said the Colorado-based 3rd ABCT of the 4th Infantry Division would deploy to Europe in January, kicking off a continuous rotation of US armored brigades to the region as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.
Over 200 armored vehicles will be added to the 2nd IBCT as it evolves into the Army’s 10th active service ABCT, making it the 15th in the entire force.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told lawmakers earlier this year that Russia, Iran, North Korea and China are among the evolving strategic rivals that drive future planning and budgets.
In a recent release, Army G-3/5/7 force management division chief Colonel Brian Ellis said that “The Army is pragmatically and proactively increasing the number of armored brigade combat teams in the force to address the several security challenges that have been identified by the secretary of defense.”
According to Military.com, 2nd IBCT is expected to fully transform in October of next year, beginning training exercises in 2018.
In addition to 87 M1A1 Abrams tanks with situational awareness configuration upgrades and 138 M1/M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the brigade will receive 18 M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers.
The M1 and M2/M3 vehicle designs are nearing forty years of age, while the M109 saw its first combat debut in the Vietnam War.
The White House proposed quadrupling funding for the European Reassurance Initiative to $3.4 billion in the FY-2017 budget, but met resistance from Congressional gridlock until a compromise was made.
Meanwhile, leaders such as Colonel Ellis see 2nd ICBT’s transformation as a positive move.
“It benefits the Army in that it provides an additional rotational capability and it expands the armored brigade combat team capacity for the Army,” Ellis said.
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