Largest US-led military games in decades to avoid Belgium's daytime traffic jams

Largest US-led military games in decades to avoid Belgium's daytime traffic jams
Illustration image of a traffic jam near Antwerp. Credit: Belga

One of the largest US-led military exercises in decades will pass through Belgium in 2020, and special arrangements will be put in place to prevent army men "wasting time" trapped in the country's trademark traffic jams.

Set for launch in February, the Defender 2020 Exercise will see US-based troops and military equipment disembark in six European countries before spreading out through a series of operational points in the Continent.

The drill will involve service members of the US Army's European command (USAREUR) as well as over a dozen NATO allies, and is designed to assess the contingent's ability to snap into action by "projecting itself across Europe" and "integrating with partners and allies," a NATO official told Defense News.

Part of the troops are reportedly bound to a fictitious battlefield in Germany and are expected to pass through Belgium to get there, using, in particular, the traffic-snarled Antwerp ring road, HLN reports.

In order to accommodate what is set to be one of the largest military games hosted in Europe since the Cold War, Belgium's defence ministry said the convoy's best bet to navigate the area's "structural traffic problems" was to travel at night.

"To avoid wasting time due to the structural traffic problems around Antwerp, we will try to get the American army troops to drive mainly at night," Former Defence Minister Didier Reynders told the Gazet Van Antwerp.

In 2018, Antwerp was ranked as the worst city in terms of traffic congestion, with a report by mobility agency Touring crowning it traffic jam capital of the world.

Making the troops take to the roads during the nighttime will also mean that noise and other disturbances to residents and regular road users will be mitigated, Reynders added.

The military exercise led by the US will require the support of "thousands of service members and civilians in multiple nations," and must be completed within 96 hours, according to the USAREUR.

The Belgian Army will provide assistance to their US counterparts to transport weaponry, tanks and other military material set to arrive in the Port of Antwerp, but HLN reports the assistance will be "limited due to a shortage of resources and personnel."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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