NATO battlegroup integration exercise begins in Tapa, other locations

EDF kit (photo is illustrative).
EDF kit (photo is illustrative). Source: Janvar Pitelkov/Kaitsevägi

The British Army's 5th Battalion the Rifles (5 Rifles), who arrived in Estonia earlier this month to replace the outgoing First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at the heard of the NATO battlegroup based in Tapa, is to engage in a weeks-long integration exercise starting Monday.

The exercise is aimed at integrating NATO personnel into the activities of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) 1st Infantry Brigade at headquarters and battlegroup level.

The NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), which is nominally under 1st Infantry Brigade command, is U.K.-led, with Danish, French and Belgian personnel also participating or having participated in the past.

The 5 Rifles, a mechanized infantry battalion, form the kernel of the eFP and are on their second rotation, having been to Tapa before, back in 2017.

Other units to have rotated through the eFP so far include armored battalions from the King's Royal Hussars (KRH) and the Queen's Royal Hussars (QRH).

The exercise is set to last over several weeks and is divided into phases, including combat training at the EDF's central polygon in Harju County and culminating in an exercise south of the border, in Latvia.

Latvia's eFP is Canadian-led, with participating nations stretching practically into double figures. The Lithuanian counterpart is German-led, and the U.S. forms the core of the eFP in Poland.

The eFP's were formed following the June 2016 Warsaw Summit which was called in response to the 2014 annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation, and the ongoing insurgency war in eastern Ukraine.

It became reality when the first NATO personnel arrived in Tapa, east of Tallinn, in April 2017, with development of facilities on-base, as well as economic growth in the local economy off-base, continuing. Personnel from 5 Rifles were in fact among the first British soldiers at Tapa, and about 20 percent of the personnel from the latest rotation had reportedly been present in the 2017 stint.

Estonia's long-term defense plan puts a premium on mechanized, or heavy, infantry, along with artillery and air defense.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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