Date: 27 April 2019
More NATO Troops in Estonia
Between April and May, the Estonian army and its NATO allies are going to take part in military drills in Estonia. For this reason, in April, four multinational battalion battle groups stationing at Tapa Army Base were reinforced.
In April, British Apache and Wildcat helicopters were deployed to Estonia. “The first ever deployment of Apache helicopters in Estonia emphasises the British presence on the NATO border,” United Kingdom Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson pointed out. Great Britain redeployed some forces of the 663rd Squadron AAC (Army Air Corps) to Estonia. Their main task is to support the British-led NATO multinational battalion battle group based in the town of Tapa. The helicopters will also provide fire support during the annual Spring Storm military exercise (Estonian: Kevadtorm) organised by the Estonian army and NATO. This year, the exercise will be held between April 29 and May 10 in the counties of Lääne-Viru and Ida-Viru (the north-east part of the country where the majority of population are Russians and which borders Russia). A total of 10,000 soldiers are expected to take part in the training. It does not stop there. In the summer, NATO’s military potential in Estonia is to be increased even more – this time at sea due to the annual Baltic Protector and BALTOPS military exercises.
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The redeployment of the helicopter squadron along with the ground crew has temporarily increased the British presence in Estonia from 800 to 1,000 soldiers. The British are the backbone of the NATO multinational battalion (in accordance with the rule of rotation); they currently have about 20 Challenger-2 tanks, around 30 Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and three AS-90 self-propelled howitzers. Apart from the British, the battalion is made up of Danes, Icelanders, Frenchmen and Belgians. On April 23, 300 French soldiers arrived at Tapa together with five Leclerc tanks and around a dozen infantry fighting vehicles. The soldiers of the 2nd Armoured Brigade are the core of the French contingent. The French are to be stationed in Estonia till the end of August. According to the Estonian Defence Ministry, in total, there are currently about 300 tanks and armoured vehicles stationing in Estonia, including 25 NATO tanks and 200 armoured vehicles of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF). Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish battalion tactical groups all form NATO’s Multinational Corps North-East whose headquarters are located in Szczecin. In Latvia, the battalion group is led by Canada, in Lithuania – by Germany and in Poland – by the USA. The units were deployed there under the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) programme.
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