Gallery: British Army Challenger tanks arrive in Paldiski port
Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) from the British Army's Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) arrived in Paldiski port Thursday, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reports.
Commander of the U.K.-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup Col. Dai Bevan told AK that the heavy armor – a Challenger 2 weighs about 64 tonnes – would be put to good use in the conditions Estonia offers.
He said: "In Estonia, particularly in winter – this is not something we have a lot of experience of, so the lessons we can learn operating in the forested areas, in the bogs of Estonia and in the really cold winter that you have will be really exciting for us, and we will learn a lot of lessons."
The logistics of transport from Paldiski to Tapa via road, a distance of around 150km, would be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one, given the experience the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) now has with the heavy armor of its NATO allies, Maj. Lauri Kiviloo, commander of the EDF's logistics service, said.
Maj. Kiviloo told AK that: "The transport of heavy equipment and tanks is always a challenge, especially when it has to be done in convoys on public roads."
"However, since 2017, when the first NATO battle group soldiers arrived in Estonia, we have been doing it regularly, and we already know well what to expect," Maj. Kiviloo continued.
The transport was coordinated in conjunction with the EDF's military police (Sõjaväepolitsei) and the public had been notified in advance to expect slow-moving convoys on the designated highway, Kiviloo added.
Challenger 2s have been in Estonia already in the recent past, as have French Leclerc heavy tanks. French transport vehicles were also used in the ferrying of the tanks to Tapa.
Footage of the activity can be seen in the AK clip below.
The arrival of the Challengers of the RTR's Dreadnaught Squadron coincided with the start of the annual large-scale Russian Exercise Zapad, which starts Friday.
This was coincidental however, Col. Bevan told AK. "This rotation has been planned for many yeas, and it just so happens it's taking place at the same time."
The official handover ceremony between the incoming RTR and the outgoing 1st Battalion, the Mercian Regiment will take place on September 19 at Tapa, the Ministry of Defense says.
The rotation is the ninth since early 2017. At the core of the eFP has generally been either a heavy infantry battalion, such as the Mercians, or an armored regiment, such as the Queen's Royal Hussars, and now, the RTR. The U.K. troops are joined both by supporting personnel from their own military, and by contingents from France and Denmark. Belgian soldiers have also contributed to the eFP to date.
The eFP is unrelated to the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, based at Ämari and currently held by the Italian Air Force.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte