This year's Estonian independence day parade in Tallinn on February 24 will include plenty of heavy equipment used by key allies the United States, France and the United Kingdom, including weaponry which has never before been publicly displayed in Freedom Square (Vabaduse väljak).
The principle underpinning this year's parade is a demonstration of state-of-the art equipment in current deployment in Estonia, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Tuesday, while the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) will also be taking part and will bring their own equipment too.
EDF Staff sgt. Renzo Rajaste told AK that: "This equipment is not just for show, it is what we actually use in the field."
"After that we clean it up, to put on show real pieces of kit that are truly functional and actually see use. So please forgive us should any armor or combat vehicles have a few scratches, or don't look immediately familiar," he went on.
A variety of air defense units will be on parade on February 24, a Saturday this year, including the Americans with their M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) which has been permanently deployed to Estonia since last year, and the Brits, for the first time parading their M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
It is not yet known whether Estonia will also bring out its newly acquired anti-ship missiles, AK reported.
The U.S. HIMARS unit, which has been in Estonia since October of last year, is also being used to train Estonian artillery personnel here and also in the U.S., ahead of the EDF receiving the same weapons systems next year.
The unit is already staffed.
Maj. Tanel Tatsi, who will command the Estonian HIMARS unit, said that both active duty EDF personnel and reservists have been re-trained on HIMARS.
Involved in that training was Capt. Rachelle Stewart of the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, who told AK that: "The past weekend we had a great opportunity to work with the Estonian future HIMARS battalion, and we specifically did driver's training with them, teaching them how to upload and download ammunition, and just overall building that camaraderie."
The battery would form a part of the under-development EDF division, which in turn will have a British Army brigade incorporated within it.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming.
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Vahur Lauri.