The Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) large-scale military training exercise in Estonia that lasted for three weeks ended with a week of live-fire shooting drills by various branches of arms.
During the live-fire portion of the exercise held at the central training area of the defense forces and Rutja on the country's northern coast last week, almost all types of weapons of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and the allied units stationed in Estonia, from automatic rifles to artillery, missiles and tanks, were fired.
The tactical activities in the exercise are over, but Spring Storm will be declared concluded when all units have returned to their bases, spokespeople for the defense headquarters in Tallinn said over the weekend.
"I am satisfied with what we have achieved in these three weeks. The objectives of the exercise were met," said the commanding officer of the exercise, Maj. Gen. Indrek Sirel.
"In a good way, we are restoring the pre-pandemic routine of the organization of exercises in the defense forces, with the exception of the involvement of reservists, of whom almost ten times less took part this year," Sirel added.
He said that the main objective of the exercise was to train the operational structure to perform its wartime tasks, while the exercise also offered the units an opportunity to achieve the objectives of their specialist training.
"I have seen how participants in Spring Storm have put their best effort into the performance of their tasks, right up to the last minute of the exercise," Sirel said. "I am very grateful to all of them for that. It can only be added that Spring Storm 2021 was a good prelude to next year's Siil [exercise]."
The commander of the 1st Infantry Brigade, Col. Vahur Karus, described Spring Storm as an excellent success in all its parts despite certain challenges and coronavirus related restrictions.
Speaking of the live-fire portion of the exercise, Karus said that the battlefield on which the troops fought their battles this year was very complex, and the way both battalions have handled it is an honor and praise for the officers and NCOs who trained them.
2nd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Tarmo Metsa said that the brigade's participation in the exercise can be considered a success in general, as the units of the 22nd Infantry Battalion and the 25th Artillery Battalion, which were trained as part of conscript service, took a graduation exam and achieved the necessary objectives.
"Of course, there's still a twinge in the soul, as the pandemic limited both the involvement of the brigade's planned reserve component and the daily training of the conscripts. In addition, the fact that once again we were forced to carry out the lion's share of the exercise only on the familiar training area of the defense forces," Metsa said.
He added that overall, the exercise can be considered a success, and effective cooperation with Polish, French, US and UK units throughout the exercise was an added value in its own right for the 2nd Infantry Brigade.
Spring Storm culminated with a tactical live-fire shooting exercise organized by the 1st Infantry Brigade, in which future reservists of first the 22nd Infantry Battalion, and then the 12th Infantry Battalion, had to plan and execute combat missions while on the defensive, conducting ambushes and counter-attacks. In addition to soldiers from units of the 1st and 2nd brigades, the exercise involved UK and US helicopters, a Latvian mortar platoon, Polish forward observers, an allied battle group and, as fire control personnel, members of the defense forces, Defense League (Kaitseliit), and reservists.
The Browning M2 heavy machine-gun, the ZU-23-2 23mm anti-aircraft gun, the Mistral and HVM anti-aircraft missile systems and Hellfire missiles fired from AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were used to destroy both flying and sea-based targets.
The units that took part in the live-fire shooting exercise at Rutja were the Air Defense Battalion, the anti-aircraft missile unit of the Scouts Battalion, and other units of the Estonian defense forces and allies. The Navy supported the shooting exercises by launching waterborne targets from a warship into the target area.
During the first week of the Spring Storm exercise that started on May 17, troops moved to the defense forces' central training area and surrounding training areas, allied forces joined the exercise, and the first training exercises took place. The Kalev infantry battalion rehearsed anti-airborne combat, while members of the 22nd Infantry Battalion and the 17th Combat Engineer Battalion together prepared defensive positions. During the first week, the training exercise was visited by President Kersti Kaljulaid and the commander of the Estonian defense forces, Martin Herem, among others.
During the phase of battle operations, which started on May 24, units rehearsed cooperation against larger units in the composition of a brigade in a wider battle environment. During the week, units from the 1st Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Brigade, along with allies and close air support, played the role of adversary to each other to check the level of training of their conscripts and active-duty personnel.
Conscripts of the 22nd Infantry Battalion had the opportunity to fly in US helicopters to Nurmsi airfield, where they carried out an assault on the positions of conscripts of the military police.
The exercise also reached Hiiumaa, the country's second largest island, where naval units practiced coastal defense in cooperation with Polish allies.
Spring Storm is the largest annual exercise of the Estonian defense forces, which is aimed at practicing joint action by various units of the defense forces. In addition to Estonian active-duty personnel, conscripts, volunteers and reservists, allied soldiers from the United States, Latvia, Poland, Italy, France, Denmark and the UK took part in the exercise.
Participants in this year's Spring Storm exercise numbered close to 7,000, including units of the Estonian Land Forces, Air Force and the Navy, 1st Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Brigade, Support Command, the military police and other units of the defense forces as well as Defense League (Kaitseliit) volunteers.
Next year, the annual large-scale exercise of the defense forces will take place in the Siil (Hedgehog) format.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste