The Army recently announced the reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command in Europe, which deactivated in 1991 following the signing of the now-defunct Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The move is one piece of the larger puzzle that the service is solving on how to get its Multi-Domain Task Forces in effective positions for competition, and potentially conflict, against key adversaries, such as the Russian and Chinese militaries.
The unit will, “further enable the synchronization of joint and multinational fires and effects, and employment of future long-range surface to surface fires across the U.S. Army Europe and Africa area of responsibility,” Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, who leads the 56th Artillery Command, said in a release Tuesday.
The command will “plan and coordinate” the use of multi-domain fires in theater, according to the release. The official reactivation ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 8.
Army leaders are building doctrine around the Multi-Domain Operations concept and units such as MDTFs to coordinate information and fires across the force’s network. If effective, the task forces would allow commanders at various echelons to strike at any time, anywhere, from any platform.
The 56th Artillery Command was last an active unit in Europe from 1986 to 1991 as the “Theater’s Pershing Missile Headquarters,” according to the release. Now that the INF
Army Times reported in September the activation of the Army’s second MDTF — the first in Europe. The first-ever MDTF was activated in 2019 under U.S. Army Pacific. That unit’s headquarters is at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, with a focus on the Chinese military.
The Europe-based MDTF and the 56th Artillery Command is located primarily in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, with its focus on Russian military influence on the continent
A third MDTF is slated for the Pacific. The Army has not specified its activation date yet.
As that unit was being officially established in a ceremony in Wiesbaden, Germany, an element of the task force was already conducting fires exercises in Norway, nearly 900 miles away.
At the time, Gen. Christopher Cavoli, U.S. Army Europe and Africa commander said that the task force would bring significant capability to the theater.
The MDTF has a headquarters element, an intelligence, cyberspace, electronic warfare and space detachment, as well as a brigade support company.
The first steel-on-target use of the task force concept was in a joint live-fire conducted during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise in 2018. That strike hit a naval vessel from multiple platforms.
During the Europe-based MDTF’s activation in September, the command sent portions of the unit to Norway for fires support and engagement in Exercise Thunder Cloud.
The exercise included soldiers with 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade, who fired M31 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems from the M270A1 MLRS.
They also used a high-altitude balloon system to coordinate fires that hit a target at sea, 20 kilometers off the coast of Andoya, Norway, according to an Army release.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.