U.K.-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Estonia turns six

British soldiers in a maintenance hangar at Tapa base.
British soldiers in a maintenance hangar at Tapa base. Source: Mil.ee

The NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup in Estonia recently marked six years of existence.

Based primarily at Tapa, east of Tallinn, and with HQ staff in the capital, the battlegroup is one of four such set-ups, the others being in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The Tapa-based eFP Battlegroup is U.K.-led, and its commander, Brig. Giles Harris of the British Army, noted that the presence emerged in the wake of the 2016 Warsaw Agreement.

"The British Army is a global force, one that is continuously engaged around the world, and for the past six years, we have been training and operating here, alongside our allies;" Brig. Harris, who recently returned to command the eFP having already done so in an earlier stint down to 2019, said.

The eFP at Tapa is the British army's largest land deployment, and also consists of personnel from the armed forces of France and Denmark, who complete tours ranging in duration from four months to two years.

All in all, over 10,000 allied soldiers have been on rotation with the NATO eFP so far, Brig. Harris said, and at any one time, around 700 British soldiers are based in Estonia, along with a further 300 in Poland.

Naturally, the eFP works very closely with its hosts, the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF).

"We love being here; it's a privilege to serve alongside Estonia's soldiers on NATO's Eastern Flank, and with our Polish allies further South, and we look forward to continuing this relationship for many years to come," Brig. Harris continued.

The Warsaw Agreement followed the 2016 summit of the same name, at which the decision was made to beef up NATO's Eastern Flank. Estonia has been a member state since 2004.

Even during the six years of the eFP's existence in Estonia, the security situation has changed, not least following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine from February 2022, and the accession of Finland - and the planned accession of Sweden, as the newest members of the alliance - are of a huge significance to the region.

Inward investment has led to a considerable growth in the scope and availability of facilities at Tapa base also.

The planned development of a divisional-level NATO command structure in Estonia is ongoing, while a separate, distinct battlegroup, the Agile Task Force, has also spent time in Estonia in the recent past.

British soldiers, and regimental mascot, on parade at Tapa Base (photo taken 2021). Source: mil.ee

Most of the British Army regiments to have formed up the core of the eFP have been infantry and armored units, meaning Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks have been among the most noticeable materiel to have been deployed.

Two serving British prime ministers, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, have also been on official visits to the base.

The eFP is wholly separate from the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission, based at Ämari, though the U.K.'s Royal Air Force currently holds that role, on a rotational basis.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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