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WETTINER SCHWERT ~ VJTF 2023 Wet Gap Crossing

Leopard 2A7V main battle tanks of Panzerbataillon 393 spearheaded the forces crossing the river Elbe [© Carl Schulze]

The German-led NATO VJTF 2023 practised a tactical wet gap crossing operation across the River Elbe during WETTINER SCHWERT, reports Carl Schulze.


Storkau, Germany, 02 April 2022: The wet gap crossing operation proceeds like clockwork. With each ferry, constructed out of four M3 Amphibious Bridge and Ferry System vehicles of the German-British Pionierbrückenbataillon 130, an amphibious engineer battalion, more materiel of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Land) 2023 is brought across the Elbe. Among it are Germany’s most modern fighting vehicles, Leopard 2A7V main battle tanks and Schützenpanzer Puma VJTF armoured infantry fighting vehicles.

A Leguan Gepanzertes Brückenlegesystem (armoured bridge layer) of Panzerpionierbataillon 701 drives off a ferry built out of four M3 Amphibious Bridge and Ferry System vehicles [© Carl Schulze]

In 2023, for the third time after 2015 and 2019, Germany will serve as the lead nation for the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Land). The VJTF(L) is brigade-size multinational mechanised Task Force, which forms the spearhead of the NATO Response Force (NRF). The core of VJTF(L) 2023 will be provided by the Panzergrenadierbrigade 37 ‘Freistaat Sachsen’, an armoured infantry brigade, which will include a battalion-size battle group centred around the brigade’s Panzerbataillon 393 tank battalion. As part of its VJTF(L) Stand-up-Phase and certification process the brigade is currently conducting Exercise WETTINER SCHWERT in the provinces of Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, in eastern Germany.

A Truppenentgiftungsplatz 90 decontamination unit was among the equipment of ABC-Abwehrbataillon 750 ‘Baden’ CBRN defence battalion being ferried across the Elbe [© Carl Schulze]

The VJTF(L) allows NATO to quickly and flexible react to threats and security challenges within the boundaries of Alliance territory, as well as abroad. The total VJTF(L) 2023 rotation takes three years, with Year One being the Stand-up Phase and dedicated to the formation’s preparations and certification. It is this phase which Panzergrenadierbrigade 37 is currently in. The second year is the Stand-by-Phase, during which the unit maintains a constant readiness and can be deployed within 48 to 72 hours, once alerted. The third year is the Stand-down-Phase, during which the unit still maintains a certain degree of readiness. VJTF(L) assigned forces in the Stand-up- and Stand-down-Phases can be deployed in support of the forces in the Stand-by-Phase in 45 or respectively 30 days.

Light infantry mounted on GTK Boxer A2 section vehicles also took part in the combat march
[© Carl Schulze]

Today, Saturday 2nd, as part of the exercise the VJTF(L) 2023 forces, spearheaded by Panzerbataillon 393 battlegroup, conducted a combat march which saw them moving from the Klietz Training Area to the Altmark Training Area, where the Gefechtsübungszentrum Heer (GÜZ H) combat manoeuvre training centre of the German Army is situated. As part of this march the forces conducted an unopposed tactical wet gap crossing operation across the River Elbe. In around six hours some 340 vehicles of Panzergrenadierbrigade 37, including 75 tracked, crossed the Elbe in the vicinity of Storkau. Among the units crossing the river were: the HQ of Panzergrenadierbrigade 37 armoured infantry brigade; Panzerbataillon 393 tank battalion; two companies of Panzergrenadierbataillon 112 armoured infantry battalion; elements of Panzerpionierbataillon 701 armoured engineer battalion; elements of ABC-Abwehrbataillon 750 ‘Baden’ CBRN defence battalion; and elements of Sanitätsregiment 1 medical regiment,

A pair of Schützenpanzer Puma armoured infantry fighting vehicles of Panzergrenadierbataillon 112 is ferried across the Elbe by engineers of the German-British Pionierbrückenbataillon 130 [© Carl Schulze]

With the wet gap crossing operation completed, the troops of the Panzergrenadierbrigade 37 now have to face two weeks of combat operations at the GÜZ H combat manoeuvre training centre, which will also include their certification as the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Land) 2023.

Brand-new MAN UTF 5 ton 4×4 and 15 ton 6×6 trucks were also among the range of vehicles taking part in the river crossing operation [© Carl Schulze]
The Aufklärungs- und Verbindungszug (reconnaissance and liaison platoon) of Panzerbataillon 393 tank battalion is equipped with Spähwagen scout cars [© Carl Schulze]
A Schützenpanzer Puma VJTF armoured infantry fighting vehicle of Panzergrenadierbataillon 112 provides cover for the river crossing site [© Carl Schulze]

[Text and images © Carl Schulze]


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