I/ITSEC 2023: Why the US Army is spending billions on modernising training facilities in Europe
The US Army’s commitment to the European and African theatre was reinforced a few months ago by the announcement of commencement of a major redevelopment programme at Grafenwoehr in Bavaria in Germany.
Grafenwoehr is home to the US Army’s 7th Army Training Command (7 ATC) whose mission is to:
- • Deliver ready, trained and equipped forces for operational demands.
• Resource training readiness for all of US Army Europe and Africa’s assigned and allocated forces throughout the US European Command area of operations.
• Lead the army in developing allied and partnered nation interoperability.
• Provide the army with an active learning, near-peer environment to press modernisation initiatives.
• Operate a combat training centre (CTC) that focuses on interoperability and training brigade combat teams.
The Grafenwoehr Training Area (GTA) which adjoins the base, provides comprehensive facilities for live training, particularly armoured manoeuvre warfare.
According to 7 ATC information, it encompasses 233sq km, with more than 113km of tank trails and 241km of secondary roads. It has 44 digitally connected computerised ranges, the most of any US Army training area.
GTA provides 43 artillery position areas, 24 mortar firing points, two airfields, three surveyed drop zones, three demolition areas and two dig sites for engineer training, plus two main impact areas and three impact areas associated with specific ranges.
GTA is owned and operated by the US Army’s Training Support Activity Europe (TSAE), which is responsible for all its ranges and local training areas on the continent.
The facilities at Grafenwoehr are used by both US and allied troops for exercises, pre-deployment training and other events. Currently, they are accommodated in what Scott Ghiringhelli, 7 ATC public affairs representative, described to Shephard as ‘the dated facilities at Camp Aachen, Camp Normandy, Camp Algier and Camp Kasserine’, which are different complexes within the base.
The US Army has, therefore, embarked on a major modernisation programme, the Operational Readiness Training Complex (ORTC), the first phase of which was launched with a ground-breaking ceremony at the beginning of August 2023. An ORTC will be large enough to accommodate a complete brigade of 5,000 personnel, with a surge capacity of 9,500.
The overall plan, which will extend ‘over the course of decades’, is for three ORTCs to be built. The first, which will cost about US$1.3 billion, will see 47 buildings constructed over 10 years on a 130-acre site, plus infrastructure, a road network and utilities. The project was launched in August 2023.
A 3D rendering of the first Operational Readiness Training Complex development at Grafenwoehr. (Image: US Army)
According to Ghiringhelli, the first construction contract was awarded in 2023 and focuses on site preparation and developing infrastructure for the first ORTC being built. This will be roughly to the west of the existing Camp Aachen and Camp Algier.
He said that once enough new facilities and sites come online to host enough troops to eliminate the need for the existing, dated sites, the old camps will be cleared to make way for new ORTC construction.
This infrastructure and site preparation work is expected to continue into 2024, meaning there will not be traditional vertical construction visible on new buildings until well into 2024, he added.
The facilities planned for each site will include a brigade headquarters (HQ), seven battalion and seven company HQs, accommodation for officers and soldiers, three dining facilities, seven vehicle maintenance facilities and vehicle parks.
Ghiringhelli said that the ORTC project is being delivered by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District, in collaboration with US Army Europe and Africa, US Army Garrison Bavaria, German construction partners and others.
If the first ORTC is going to cost about $1.3 billion over 10 years, the whole three-phase programme is likely to need at least $4 billion in funding at today’s prices, which is a substantial investment in an overseas training facility that is partly for the benefit of allies, as well as US forces.
While it would probably be wrong to read too much into it, this project does provide an indication of a long-term commitment by the US to the European and African theatre.
This article originally featured in Shephard’s Decisive Edge Newsletter – Training in September 2023.
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