Approximately a dozen personnel will be deployed with the rocket systems to the exercise, called Namejs 2022. U.S. soldiers are practicing rapidly deploying long-range “precision fires capabilities in coordination with our allies and partners,” the statement said.
The HIMARS will be rapidly deployed to Latvia using two C-130 aircraft and airmen from U.S. Special Operations Command’s 352nd Special Operations Wing.
“We are honored to work alongside our Allies in Latvia as one team in support of NATO’s collective mission,” Col. Richard Ikena, 1st Infantry Division Artillery Commander, said in a statement. “Namejs is an opportunity to enhance our readiness and strengthen our relationship with our NATO Allies. It also demonstrates our ability to rapidly deploy our Soldiers and long-range precision fires capabilities at a moment’s notice anywhere in the European theater.”
Units participating in the deployment include 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, under the command of 1st Infantry Division Artillery.
The unit, which is part of 18th Airborne Corps’ field artillery brigade, deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Germany at the start of Russia’s invasion in February.
The deployment was intended to shore up the number of U.S. troops in Europe, “and add a highly mobile, long-range precision fires platform in support of NATO defense,” U.S. Army Europe and Africa stated.
The exercise comes amid increased tensions between Russia and NATO in recent days.
The West’s flow of money and weapons to Ukraine has drawn the ire of the Kremlin, and President Vladimir Putin upped the ante last Wednesday, making a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons.
In an ABC News interview Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration was taking the threat “very seriously,” but remained committed to the defense of Ukraine.
“He started way back in February when Russian tanks first rolled across the border, brandishing that nuclear card,” Sullivan said. “And that has not deterred us from providing more than $15 billion in weapons to Ukraine, helping them defend their country. And it will not deter us now.”
Since Russia’s invasion, the U.S. has sent Ukraine 140 Howitzers and nearly 1 million artillery rounds, 16 HIMARS systems and ammunition, nearly 700 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems and eight Surface-to-air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, among other weaponry, according to the Forum on the Arms Trade.
Most recent estimates put the total dollar amount of military aid at $15.8 billion.
The Biden administration has thus far opted not to furnish Ukrainian requests for Army Tactical Missile Systems out of concern that it could escalate the conflict. Russia’s Foreign Ministry threatened that missiles with a longer range than HIMARS, like ATACMS, cross a “red line” and would make the U.S. “a party to the conflict.”
Latvia, a NATO member that shares more than 125 miles of border with Russia, has also equipped its eastern European neighbor. According to a statement from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Latvia has given Kyiv two Soviet-era Mi-17s and two Mi-2s, along with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
Zamone “Z” Perez is an editorial fellow at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa, where he helped produce podcasts. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched humanitarian intervention and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.