US Army soldiers in Poland ahead of Exercise Defender Europe 20 110320 CREDIT US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.jpg

Defender-Europe 20: US To Reduce Personnel Numbers Amid Coronavirus Fears

The exercise is the US' largest transatlantic military deployment for an exercise in 25 years.

US Army soldiers in Poland ahead of Exercise Defender Europe 20 110320 CREDIT US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.jpg

The US has confirmed it will reduce the number of personnel taking part in a major military exercise over coronavirus concerns.

More than 20,000 American troops based in the US were planned to take part in Exercise Defender-Europe 20 - the largest US deployment to an exercise in Europe for 25 years.

A total of 37,000 personnel from 18 nations were expected to participate in the exercise that is being held in 10 European nations.

The UK is understood to be the biggest non-US contributor on the exercise, with around 2,600 soldiers involved.

In a statement, US European Command said: "After careful review of the ongoing Defender-Europe 20 exercise activities and in light of the current coronavirus outbreak, we will modify the exercise by reducing the number of US participants.

"Activities associated with the exercise will be adjusted accordingly and we'll work closely with allies and partners to meet our highest priority training objectives."

The statement also said the US' "top concern" is protecting the health of those taking part. 

WATCH: The Minister for Defence People and Veterans spoke to Forces News about the impact of coronavirus on military exercises.

The exercise is designed to test the ability of NATO and partner nations to readily deploy forces to defend against potential aggression and deter adversaries.

Earlier this week, US Rear Admiral William D. Byrne, Vice Director of Joint Staff, said he expected Exercise Defender-Europe 20 to continue. 

Two weeks ago, the US and South Korea postponed their annual joint drills over coronavirus.

Meanwhile, around 2,000 British troops deployed on Exercise Cold Response have seen the Norway-based training cancelled amid COVID-19 concern.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Johnny Mercer MP, said the Government is "looking at" exercises to see "whether or not they need to go ahead".

Cover Image: US Army soldiers in Poland ahead of Exercise Defender-Europe 20 (Picture: US Department of Defense).