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US deploying HIMARS platoon, infantry company to Estonia

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HIMARS fired during exercises in Saaremaa this spring. May 2022.
HIMARS fired during exercises in Saaremaa this spring. May 2022. Source: EDF Headquarters

In the coming weeks, the United States will be deploying an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and platoon, an infantry company as well as associated command and control equipment and systems to Estonia, the Ministry of Defense announced Thursday. The U.S. will also start contributing to the establishment of the Estonian division under NATO.

"This decision marks a significant enhancement of the U.S. rotational military presence in Estonia and the Baltic states, demonstrating the U.S.' longstanding commitment to the security of our region and greatly enhancing NATO's posture," said Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform).

The additional troops and capabilities being deployed to Estonia will strengthen NATO's forward defenses as well as increase the security of its allies, he added.

This deployment follows President Joe Biden's announcement at the Madrid summit held in June and is part of a longer series of rotations constituting a persistent, heel-to-toe U.S. presence in the Baltic states. It affirms the two countries' shared values and interests as well as exemplifies the excellent defense and security relations between Estonia and the U.S., the Defense Ministry said.

While deployed to Estonia, the U.S. units will train together with the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) in order to increase interoperability — and, if necessary, are prepared to defend Estonia as well.

The HIMARS is regarded as the most modern and sophisticated long-range fires system in the world today and will provide significant firepower and strategic effect to Estonia's defensive posture, the ministry added.

"We expect to receive our own HIMARS systems by 2025, so being able to learn the ropes early with the U.S. troops will make the adoption even smoother and win us critical time," Pevkur said.

Estonia joining Warfighter program

The EDF and U.S. will also work together on establishing a divisional structure in Estonia under the framework of NATO. Estonia will be joining the renowned U.S. Warfighter program, which comprises a series of exercises culminating in a capstone training event that will provide certification to participating corps and division formations.

In addition to the recent U.S. deployments, Estonia is also currently hosting the U.K.-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup Estonia, which consists of British, French and Danish units and Icelandic experts, as well as the Baltic Air Policing mission currently being conducted out of Ämari Air Base by the German Air Force.

The current posture and rotations reflect ongoing allied efforts to increase their defensive capabilities and interoperability to ensure that every inch of NATO territory can be defended without delay, the Estonian ministry said. These efforts have been redoubled in response to Europe's deteriorating security environment and in particular to Russia's unprovoked aggression and brutal war against Ukraine.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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