Spring Storm: British Army on Exercise in Estonia
Units Deployed on Op CABRIT Take Part in NATO Exercise
According to different sources somewhere between 700 and 1,000 British military personnel are taking part in Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia. Ex Spring Storm sees as many as 10,000 troops from 15-17 NATO countries and allies training for rapid deployment kilometres from the Russian border.
NATO is capable to defend against any adversary.
“Spring Storm shows NATO is capable to defend against any adversary”, said NATO deputy spokesman Piers Cazalet. “It tests how well our forces work together and it is a strong expression of Allied solidarity”.
British Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster witnessed the depth and breadth of the UK’s longstanding defence relationship with Estonia first-hand after visiting deployed UK personnel this week.
Mark Lancaster visited Royal Air Force Typhoons patrolling Baltic skies as part of the Alliance’s Baltic Air Policing mission, met British Army personnel contributing to the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup and flew in one of the Wildcat helicopters recently deployed to Estonia alongside Apache helicopters as part of the UK’s recent uplift in military assets under codename Operation CABRIT.
The Armed Forces Minister said: “The blue, black and white of Estonian flag is said to represent the Baltic sea, its forest soil and its open skies. Our commitment to Estonia is resolute and this year our sailors, soldiers and airmen will work side by side with our Estonian allies providing vital deterrence and reassurance at sea, on land and in the sky.”
On his visit, the Armed Forces Minister also had the chance to witness the Estonian Defence Forces and NATO soldiers training together on Exercise Spring Storm, a major Estonian-led exercise featuring 10,000 personnel. Soldiers from France joined the King’s Royal Hussars and Estonian troops as part of UK-led eFP battlegroup.
Mr Lancaster also met Estonian defence minister Juri Lurik and the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Major General Martin Herem, to discuss the enduring UK-Estonian defence relationship.
The Estonian 1st Infantry Brigade and 2nd Brigade were split into groups to conduct a range of scenarios, which involved exercising in civilian populated towns and rural environments.
It’s been fast and furious.
Lieutenant Colonel Angus Tilney, the Commanding Officer of the Kings Royal Hussars said the exercise is an “amazing opportunity”.
Operating just 15 kilometres from the Russian border, Lt Col Tilney said: “It’s been fast and furious. Working on open streets, towns and roads of Estonia is a unique experience. I’ve never done anything like it before in 18 years of an Army career.”
Armed Forces Minister, Mark Lancaster was ‘impressed’ with the involvement of British personnel, having visited them as they completed the first half of the exercise.
“To see the ability of our troops within a NATO context training together is really powerful. I think the presence we have here is really important,” Mr Lancaster said.
During his visit, Mr Lancaster promised Britain’s military presence would remain in Estonia for the “foreseeable future”.
But he told Forces News the exercise was not being used to antagonise Russia.
“This is not a provocation,” he said.
“This is simply a deterrence and NATO is a defensive organisation and it’s right that we should be able to exercise with our allies.”
Ground forces will also be supported by RAF Typhoons, UK Wildcats and Apaches.
It’s the largest exercise conducted by the Estonian Defence Force, and it’s used to give a snapshot of how the force operates.
General Indrek Sirel, the Deputy Chief of Defence for Estonia, who organised the operation said: “This exercise is an important part of our annual training cycle. We are training all the elements of which the Estonian Defence Force consists of.”
These elements included how the force communicates and operates with allied partners.
The UK’s leading role in NATO and its support to the Baltic region will be further bolstered this week when HMS Westminster arrives as part of the NATO Standing Maritime Group 1. Further Royal Navy deployments will take place this summer during Baltic Protector, a Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) deployment that will see some 3,000 troops and 20 vessels from JEF partner nations exercise with each other in the region.
Sources: MOD, Forces News
Image: British Army’s Kings Royal Hussars on Op CABRIT in Estonia taking part in Ex Spring Storm (Crown Copyright, 2019).