The Russian military's advanced drone capabilities are forcing U.S. forces in Europe to abandon a long-held presumption of air superiority, according to the Army's top general in the region.

"It's been a very long time since American soldiers have had to worry about [an] enemy up in the sky ... having the ability to drop bombs," said U.S. Army Europe Commanding General Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said Wednesday. "I mean, our Air Force has protected us for decades.," Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said Wednesday.

"Now, what we're seeing from the Russians, they've got tiered, multileveled [unmanned aerial systems] of all types," Hodges said. "So they're able to see us just the way we've enjoyed the advantage of being able to see others.," Hodges said.

"That’s a concern," he said. "We’re having to figure out,: 'How do you deal with that kind of capability?' We’re having to relearn how to do some stuff." 

Hodges' comments came in a briefing to reporters on the U.S. military's response to increased Russian aggression in Europe and the ongoing mission to reassure allies in Eastern Europe with expanded training programs and forward-deployed equipment. That includes rotating Army, Air Force and Marine Corps units through military training sites in Poland, the Baltics, Romania and Bulgaria.

The Army recently shipped an armor brigade's worth of gear to Europe with plans to permanently station the equipment in key locations across Eastern Europe. Known as the "European Activity Set," the gear will allow personnel to rapidly deploy for training or contingency operations.

The Army also is drawing lessons from its operations in Ukraine. About 400 U.S. soldiers deployed earlier this year to a training facility in western Ukraine, where they are getting firsthand reports from local fighters who have seen Russian military technology on the battlefield along Ukraine's eastern border.

"What the Ukrainians would tell you is that, when they see certain UAVs or they hear them, they know there's a rocket coming right behind it, because they've been 'acquired,'" Hodges said. "And so they've learned how to survive in that sort of environment.," Hodges said.

Russian electronic-warfare capability also is forcing U.S. troops to renew a focus on tactical-communications gear.

"We have not had to worry about being jammed or being intercepted, that sort of thing," Hodges said. "The Russians definitely have that capability to do that. If we are not disciplined, if we're not trained, and if we don't use our communications equipment correctly, then we'll be intercepted. And if you can be intercepted, then you can be hit."

The Army has revamped its primary infantry European training facility in Hohenfels, Germany, so that troops now face a hypothetical enemy armed with precision-guided munitions, rocket launchers and advanced electronic jammers — "all the things that the Ukrainians are encountering," Hodges said.

Top Air Force officials have also recently expressed cConcerns about the loss of air superiority also have been expressed recently by top Air Force officials.

"The capability gap that we’ve enjoyed here in the United States for years is closing, and it’s closing fast," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III on , the Air Force chief of staff, said Dec. 1. "If we don’t pay attention to this, air power will no longer be an asymmetric advantage for the U.S. military. The impact of that could be catastrophic."

Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.

In Other News
Load More