UK to send helicopters, fighter jets to Estonia next year

Union Jack flag at a press conference in Tallinn.
Union Jack flag at a press conference in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The UK will send Chinook and Apache helicopters and Typhoon fighter jets to Estonia next year under a new agreement signed on Tuesday. A brigade will also be stationed in the UK but the 700 extra soldiers currently at Tapa will leave in December.

Minister of Defense of Estonia Hanno Pevkur (Reform) and UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace inked the deal in London.

It lays out the terms of the agreement made during NATO's Madrid Summit in June.

Pevkur said the plans will "significantly" increase the UK's contribution to Estonia's security in the coming year.

"In January, Chinook helicopters will arrive in Estonia, in March Apache helicopters, in April Typhoon fighters, and in May an additional battlegroup will be deployed to Estonia for the large-scale exercise Spring Storm," he said in a statement.

Ben Wallace and Hanno Pevkur. Source: Kaitseministeerium

"During the year, the UK will also contribute to increasing security on the Baltic Sea and the UK will hold a brigade-sized force at high readiness in the UK."

The minister said, in planning terms, it will be calculated into the Estonian division structure, and it will be ready to deploy to Estonia immediately if needed.

"In addition, the UK will maintain the multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), brought to Estonia in summer 2022 to reinforce the allied battlegroup, and the short-range air defense systems Stormer," Pevkur said.

He said the agreement signed on Tuesday will act as a "guide" going forwards.

NATO's Eastern Flank (June 2022). Source: NATO

"For example, the UK will activate a Forward HQ led by a brigadier in Estonia during Spring 2023, which will be developed from the existing eFP Command and which will coordinate the activities, training, surges of UK land forces in the region and support the development of the Estonian Division," the Reform Party minister said.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK's commitment to Estonia and European defense and security is "unwavering".

"The deployment of assets such as Apache and Chinook helicopters to exercise in Estonia is a clear example of the strength of our relationship, and the importance we place on our ability to effectively operate side by side," he said in a statement.

The UK currently has approximately 1,600 troops stationed in Estonia at Tapa military base and leads NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup. It temporarily upped the number from the usual 900 after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

Ben Wallace behind British and Estonian flags at a press conference in Estonia in March 2022. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The number will return to 900 at the end of the year, it was reported by The Times newspaper in September, although the announcement took Estonian politicians by surprise.

Tuesday's agreement stated the extra forces would return to the UK in December.

Questions have also been raised over where the UK brigade should be stationed, Estonia or the UK, but the head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Lt. Gen. Martin Herem has previously said it does not matter as long as it is well-integrated.

Estonia will also improve its "Host Nation Support capabilities" by building a divisional headquarters, additional accommodation at Tapa and a new training ground in South Estonia.

French and Danish forces also contribute to Estonia's eFP battlegroup and France will send additional troops next year.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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