Over 1000 soldiers from the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup in Estonia, including soldiers from the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) 1st Infantry Brigade, have efficiently deployed to the Adaži training area in Latvia, for a major integration exercise this week which includes the use of armor and other military hardware.
Colonel Paul Clayton, commander of the Estonian eFP based at Tapa said of the exercise, dubbed Furious Axe, that: "I am very excited that the majority of the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia will be out on the ranges in Adaži, as this is the first time this contingent of British and Danish forces has been able to travel out of Estonia.
"The challenges of the excellent live-fire range facilities here at Adaži will test our capabilities, underline the readiness of our force and demonstrate our commitment to NATO."
Coronavirus considerations had been borne in mind at all times, Col. Clayton added.
"We have conducted careful planning in liaison with the Estonian and Latvian authorities, to ensure our compliance with COVID-19 measures," he said.
The exercise represents the first time the current eFP rotation, made up of U.K. and Danish personnel, has been able to leave Estonia and followed planning to ensure COVID-19 compliance.
Previous rotations had also taken advantage of Adaži's facilities.
Lieutenant Colonel Jim Hadfield, Commanding Officer of 5th Battalion the Rifles (5 Rifles), which forms the core of the eFP at present, said: "We have brought the battlegroup down to Latvia to benefit from the excellent training facilities at Adaži, so that we can conduct some very demanding live-fire exercises."
"This will allow us to demonstrate the capabilities of our tanks and armored vehicles, especially their defensive strengths, whilst working along our dismounted infantry. It is especially important for us as the NATO Battlegroup to seize these opportunities to move safely around the Baltic States and making sure that we continue to focus on our readiness to fulfill our commitment to NATO and to the collective defense of Estonia."
Exercise Furious Axe has focused on defensive operations, with the Canadian-led Latvian eFP filling the role of attackers.
It also aims at integration efforts between 5 Rifles and the Danish contingent, within the EDF's st Infantry Brigade.
The exercise was accompanied by a visitor day Tuesday, where equipment was on display.
As well as heavy armor such as the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, armored infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, combat engineer and other personnel have also been involved.
In addition to the eFP battlegroups in Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania plays host to a German-led battlegroup, and a U.S.-led battlegroup is based in Poland.
The eFP battlegroups became reality in 2017 following the 2016 Warsaw Summit, itself sparked primarily by the 2014 annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation, and the ongoing insurgency war in eastern Ukraine.
Exercise Furious Axe has been running all week, ending Friday.
Editor: Andrew Whyte