WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Wednesday that it would deploy rotations of U.S.-based armored brigade combat teams to Europe, part of a wider effort to counter what the United States sees as Russian aggression on the continent.
The teams will be on nine-month rotations starting in February 2017, and will conduct military exercises across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, according to a statement from U.S. European Command.
Their presence in Europe will be continuous and bring the total U.S. Army presence on the continent to three fully manned brigades, the military said.
Each unit rotating in will bring equipment that is more modern and up-to-date and will ultimately replace the current training equipment in Europe. A typical U.S. Army armored brigade has about 4,500 soldiers.
The decision means U.S. allies will "see a more frequent presence of an armored brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries," said General Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command.
The United States has budgeted to sharply boost military training and exercises aimed at reassuring European countries concerned about Russia, which seized Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014 and has worried NATO allies with its strategic bomber flights.
Current equipment used in Europe will be upgraded and stored in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, and will allow for "additional combat power, if and when needed," the military said.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Alan Crosby)