The Army is sending 400 troops and rocket artillery systems to South Korea to bolster counter-battery defenses against the threat posed by North Korea's massive artillery emplacements on the De-Militarized Zone, the Pentagon said Friday.
The 400 troops from the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery, was expected to deploy in June to join the 210th Field Artillery Brigade at Camp Casey in South Korea.
Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) will arrive "at the highest level of readiness," the Army said in the announcement.
Lt. Col. Donald Peters, an Army spokesman, said that the troops were deploying for a nine-month rotation but the rocket systems will remain in South Korea. The Fort Hood troops will boost the U.S. troop strength on the peninsula to about 28,900.
Peters said the Army has eliminated some of its field artillery brigade headquarters units the overall restructuring of the Army due to budget cuts. To retain overall combat power, rocket artillery battalions were being spread among the artillery brigades.
The Army said the deployment was not in response to any specific actions from North Korea but was part of an "Army-wide reorganization that will raise the number of MLRS battalions in all field artillery brigades from two to three."
The MLRS has a range of about 40 miles with standard munitions and more than 100 miles when firing the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).
The deployment of the Fort Hood unit came after South Korea and the U.S. agreed last year to keep the 210th Field Artillery Brigade at Camp Casey until at least 2020, when South Korean forces were expected to have their own counter-battery fire plan developed.
Seoul, about 25 miles south of the DMZ, was believed to be well within range of the hardened positions of North Korea's 170mm artillery pieces and 240mm rockets.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com