Gallery: Large-scale US-led military exercise in Estonia draws to a close

A US-led large-scale military exercise in Estonia ended Friday after close to two weeks' maneuvers which included a para jump involving hundreds of American and British airborne troops and the live-firing of several multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). The exercise also dovetails into Estonian forces' annual Exercise Spring Storm, which starts Monday.

Maj. Gen. Indrek Sirel, commander of the exercise, dubbed Swift Response, and itself a component of the pan-European exercise DEFENDER-Europe 21, said: "The stage of Swift Response in Estonia is coming to an end, but the exercise Defender Europe, led by the United States Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF), is only starting in numerous other states. This exercise with our allies was a good warm-up for Kevadtorm, which is about to begin very soon."

Sirel was referring to Spring Storm (Kevadtorm), the annual Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) mass exercise which starts this month and which some allied troops will remain in Estonia to take part in.

Most of the rest of the U.S. personnel, many of whom had come from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne Division , are heading home.

Most of the U.K. personnel visiting were from 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (2PARA).

The NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup based at Tapa, Lääne-Viru County is also U.K.-led.

Swift Response brought to Estonia close to 2,000 personnel all told, from the U.S. and the U.K.

Maj. Gen. Sirel continued that: "Swift Response 21 was not just for rehearsing cooperation - it was a practical exercise on how to very rapidly deploy our allies and capabilities in Estonia in case of a threat."

"More importantly, we discovered areas where we can increase the efficiency of similar exercises even further in the future. It is also important that despite all pandemic-related restrictions, we're continuously able to hold exercises with our allies and ensure the preparedness of our forces," he went on, as quoted by BNS.

DEFENDER-Europe 21 is the largest US-led exercise in Europe in 25 years and is being held simultaneously in 16 European countries, involving a total of 28,000 troops.

Highlights of Swift Response included:

  • May 5: Live-firing MLRS exercise saw over 20 missiles from five systems operated by the U.S. and the U.K. at the EDF's central polygon training area.
  • May 7: Nearly 600 airborne personnel from Britain and the U.S. make a large-scale jump over Nurmsi airfield in Järva County. The jump also sees two artillery pieces dropped in conjunction. The exercise had been delayed by around 24 hours due to weather conditions, and was followed by a combat rehearsal involving an "enemy" comprising personnel from the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), which augments the regular EDF. President Kersti Kaljulaid also visited Nurmsi and was given an overview of proceedings.
  • The event was accompanied by rapid refueling at Ämari Air Base, home of the NATO Baltic Air Policing operations, which saw nine planes and over twice that number of helicopters involved, the largest number of military aircraft Ämari has simultaneously hosted to date.
  • May 8: A jump made from U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook, Boeing AH-64 Apache and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters takes place.

Spring Storm starts Monday and is necessarily scaled-down in comparison with some previous years' events, due to coronavirus considerations.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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