Members of the Chasseurs Ardennais battalion of the Belgian Armed Forces are to join the multinational NATO battalion in Estonia early next year.
Approximately 200 members of the Chasseurs Ardennais battalion will be deployed to Estonia, equipped with infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), SPIKE antitank missiles, and 120mm mortars, and complete with a combat engineer and combat support unit. The unit is to arrive in Estonia with some 100 pieces of combat equipment, including 35 IFVs and 65 support vehicles, daily Postimees reported on Monday.
The Chasseurs Ardennais are based out of Marche-en-Famenne in Wallonia, Southern Belgium. Their motto is "Resist and bite!" and their insignia features a wild boar's head.
Asked by Postimees why it is that Belgians in particular will be coming to Tapa Army Base, Liis Mure, director of the NATO and European Union Department of the Ministry of Defence, said that the involvement of new allies in the multinational battle group is decided in cooperation between NATO, Estonia and the UK, the last of which is serving as the battle group's leading country.
"The most important criteria is that they be able to fulfil the military tasks set by NATO, which first and foremost are deterrence and, if needed, contributing to defence," Mure said.
In simpler terms, the troops to be deployed to the battle group must be both trained as well as equipped for complete battle readiness. "Previous cooperation experiences, which will make interoperability easier, will also play a role," she added.
Of all allies, the UK has been involved in protecting Estonia the longest. The UK is also the leading country of the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia, having assumed the indefinite obligation to deploy troops and equipment, serve, practice with and, if need be, go into battle alongside members of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF).
Belgium previously active in Estonian exercises
The Belgians have become familiar to Estonia thanks to the fact that their anti-aircraft unit has regularly attended large-scale Estonian defence exercises such as Spring Storm and Siil. Belgium has on multiple occasions also participated in the Baltic Air Policing mission, in 2016 and 2017, out of Ämari Air Base.
Members of the Chasseurs Ardennais will remain in Estonia through mid-May, and are expected to participate in next year's Spring Storm. They will be switched out by approximately 300 French troops.
France last served in Estonia in 2017; this year, the junior partner in the UK-led NATO Battle Group Estonia is Denmark.
Editor: Aili Vahtla