Brigade assigned to Estonia likely to be one of British Army's strongest

British troops at Tapa Army Base. Photo is illustrative.
British troops at Tapa Army Base. Photo is illustrative. Source:

The United Kingdom has pledged to deploy a "heavy" mechanized infantry brigade to defend Estonia in a crisis situation. While specific details have not yet been revealed to the public, the units expected to come to Estonia are likely to be among the strongest in the British Army.

So far, precise details regarding the brigade, which the U.K. has pledged to send to Estonia, remain unknown to the general public. However, according to Undersecretary for Defense Policy at the Estonian Ministry of Defense Tuuli Duneton, the ministry itself has a much clearer picture.

"The Estonian government knows exactly what the brigade is, along with the brigade number. The first point is that it has basically been decided politically, and point two is that we have absolutely definite knowledge regarding which brigade it will be," Duneton told ERR. "The U.K. has given us that information."

Duneton added that it will be a "heavy" mechanized brigade, on a high state of readiness.

According to the British Army's "Future Soldier" reform plan, which was published in 2021, the UK will have two such brigades -  the 12th and 20th Armored Brigade Combat Teams, which form part of the UK's 3rd Division. While the other British brigades have different types of special capabilities, these two brigades are, metaphorically speaking, the British Army's heavy artillery brigades.

According to the reform plan, these two brigades are designed both to provide deterrence and to fight against the strongest of opponents. They will be the cornerstone of the UK 3rd Division's direct combat capability and, over the coming years, are scheduled to be equipped with new Challenger 3 tanks, Ajax armored fighting vehicles and Boxer multirole armored fighting vehicles.

However, as long as the name of the British brigade has not been announced publicly, the possibility remains that another unit has been assigned to Estonia.

Duneton added that the precise composition of the brigade to be deployed to Estonia is not yet certain. "Negotiations on exactly which elements of a heavy brigade Estonia itself believes would be the most sensible to bring in, and exactly what the composition of that brigade would look like, is something the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) are currently engaged in consultations on."

The British Army reforms are also still yet to be completed. For example, the first Ajax combat vehicles are not due to enter into service until 2025, with the units using them not expected to reach full combat capability until 2028 or 2029. The British Army expects to receive almost 150 Challenger 3 tanks by 2027.

However, the British are also prepared to come to Estonia's aid using the equipment they already have, said Duneton.

More importantly, this British brigade will come to Estonia in a crisis situation, in addition to the existing units.

The British contribution to Estonia's defense is not really limited to a single brigade as there is already a British battalion in Tapa, operating as part of the Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) 1st Infantry Brigade.

In addition to that, discussions are also currently ongoing as to whether the U.K. will send more specialized capabilities to the Estonian division, in the form of indirect fire, communications units or something else.

"Negotiations are ongoing with various allies to bring these capabilities to Estonia. It is too early to speak specifically about the U.K. The military is doing different planning work and these options are being considered," Duneton said.

In particular, there is currently an ongoing discussion about which British brigade units or equipment ought to be pre-positioned in Estonia. As the name implies, the equipment of a "heavy" mechanized brigade is difficult to move quickly, and so, the plan is to have some of it stored in Estonia in future.

Training to practice moving the entire brigade to Estonia will take place for the first time in 2025.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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