US special forces praise success of joint weekend Estonia exercise ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft at the EDF's central polygon at the weekend.
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft at the EDF's central polygon at the weekend. Source: EDF

United States special forces personnel have hailed the success of a recent large-scale exercise which brought them to Estonian soil and allowed rehearsals for forward air control duties, among other things.

As reported on ERR News, the exercise started late last week and was first reported by Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

The U.S. personnel were transported in Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, escorted over the Baltic by Swedish air force Saab JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighters, and, once they reached Estonian airspace, by German air force (Luftwaffe) Eurofighter Typhoons.

"This large-scale exercise was preceded by extensive preparation for an integrated mission," said one U.S. officer involved in the events, the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) reports. Due to security reasons his name is not given.

"Flying a distance of over 1,000 miles, performing a long-range mission and connecting all units under one exercise was a complex task. It allowed us to practice coordination and communication efforts in the Baltics," the officer went on.

"It was a huge learning experience for the U.S. We got to know the planning and implementation of our partners better. Although we work with different armies and different partners, we face the same challenges. We were able to share the same practices and overcome the same obstacles together," he went on.

The weekend's exercise was one component of a large scale Sweden-U.S. rehearsal over the Baltic Sea, the (EDF) said Monday, and involved personnel from the U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SCOEUR) , in cooperation with the EDF, including the Estonian Air Force (Õhuvägi). The personnel touched down in the EDF's central polygon training ground, in the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL)/short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft (see video below).

The V22 Ospreys are currently based at the Satenäs Air Base in Sweden. In addition, a Lockheed MC-130J tanker and  F-15 Strike Eagles, part of the 352nd Special Operations Wing of the U.S. Air Force, based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, took part.

"The main purpose of the exercise was to give air traffic controllers experience with ammunition, but due to weather conditions, peacetime safety rules did not allow for a live-firing exercise," the EDF's commander of its tactical air support unit Maj. Tanel Rattiste said.

"Nevertheless, forward air controllers were able to practice communicating with fighter pilots and share experiences with our allies. We work very closely with the U.S. - we regularly participate in various exercises where we can work with allied aircraft and acquire the highest qualifications necessary for our work."

The U.S. says it conducts these exercises on a regular basis to assess status and, if necessary, to fulfill its security responsibilities. The exercises are also aimed at increasing the level of training of NATO Allies, a requirement for responding to potential crises around the world, the EDF says.

The U.S. has since 2015 invested tens of millions of dollars into Estonia's defense and security, up from single-figure millions prior to that and following the 2014 annexation of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, and the start of the ongoing insurgency war in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SCOEUR) is a unified command subordinate to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and includes personnel from the 10th Special Forces Group and the 352nd Special Operations Wing.

The U.S. boasts several, world-famous special forces units, including the Green Berets, Delta Force and the 75th Ranger Regiment.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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