Defense minister, US helicopters visit Spring Storm exercise

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A Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk in flight over Estonia, in an undated photo. Source: EDF/Kaitsevägi

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) got an overview up close this week of how this year's annual large-scale military conscripts exercise is progressing. Highlights of week two of the exercise have included the participation of United States Army Black Hawk and Apache helicopters.

Laanet met both EDF and allied personnel taking part in this year's Exercise Spring Storm (Kevadtorm), which among other functions, serves as the main passing out test for the annual conscript intake.

"Conducting exercises is an important part of deterrence, and shows to any potential aggressor that we take part in training even in difficult situations," Laanet said on visiting the exercise in progress at the EDF's central polygon training area, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Those difficult situations refer mainly to the pandemic, which has necessitated a far smaller component of EDF reservists, at a little over 300, then in previous years.

Conscripts would have remained mostly in-barracks since their drafting, meaning coronavirus counter-measures can be coordinated there.

After serving either eight- or 11-month national service periods, depending on the specialty, conscripts are then placed on reserve lists and liable for regular periods of service in the ensuing years.

Their numbers are bolstered by both volunteer regular EDF members, and the volunteer, part-time Defense League (Kaitseliit) as well as the NATO personnel taking part in Spring Storm this year.

Kalle Laanet noted that despite the changed format of the exercise, the main goal of Spring Storm, i.e. assessing units in their training cycle completion, remains intact this year.

Undoubtedly one of the high points for EDF conscripts, and others, taking part this year was the presence of U.S. Army Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters and Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

Conscripts from the 22nd Infantry Battalion (22. Jalaväepataljon) were also ferried in the helicopters to the Nurmsi airfield in Järva County; three Blackhawks were spotted flying over Tallinn Tuesday in a westerly direction. On arrival at Nurmsi, an exercise took place which saw the conscripts tasked with taking the airfield from its defenders, a role taken on by EDF military police (Sõjaväepolitsei) personnel.

Kalle Laanet also met with the commanders of the EDF's two lynch-pin infantry brigades.

Exemption to conscription includes for those entering higher education, and those with conscientious objections.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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