Estonia and US to begin largest joint air force exercise yet
A month-long military exercise for Estonian and US air forces will start next week in northern Estonia. For the first time in the history of independent Estonia, fighter jets will use real ammunition to shoot targets on the ground.
The exercise, which aims to improve the cooperation between allied forces, will start on March 19 and last until April 17.
In addition to low flight drills, aircraft-mounted weapon systems will be used to shoot targets at the Estonian Defense Forces' central training ground, something that has not been practiced in Estonia since the country regained independence in 1991. This part of the exercise is scheduled to take place on March 24-25.
"The exercise at hand is the first step taken by our allies to fulfill their promise. Moreover, the 2015-2016 US defense budget has 24,7 million dollars (23.3 million euros) planned for the extension of Ämari Air Base. All this is a clear sign that our American allies have plans to stay here on a more permanent basis and such exercises will become regular," Commander of the Estonian Air Force Colonel Jaak Tarien said.
The exercise will be attended by the US 510th Fighter Squadron, normally based at the Aviano Air Base in Italy. The F-16s and about a 300-crew squadron, will be temporarily based at Ämari for the duration of the exercise.
Estonian air force will also map noise levels in and around the training area. The data will be used to plan future exercises, to minimize the disturbance to local inhabitants.