A joint Estonian and British amphibious landing exercise took place at Kolga Bay on Estonia’s northern coast Thursday.
The exercise came as part of Baltic Protector 2019, a large scale exercise led by Britain’s Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) and involving NATO allies which has run since May, covering a broad sweep of the Baltic Sea. Britain’s elite Royal Marines Commandos were at the heart of Thursday’s landing practice, which was visited both by President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre).
“The Royal Navy and Royal Marines have a close and long-standing cooperation with the Estonian defense forces. We are partners JEF and allies in NATO. The British defense personnel have alredy fought alongside Estonian troops in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Cdre James Parkin, head of the Royal Navy’s task force, said, BNS reports.
“100 years ago a Royal Navy squadron fought for Estonia’s freedom. The exercise today reaffirms our continued commitment to preserving security in Estonia and the Baltic Sea region,” he added.
The Estonian troops, including members of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), the volunteer Defence League (Kaitseliit), the Estonian navy (Merevägi) and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), were tasked with ensuring security during the landing exercise, which was additionally supported by Wildcat, Apache, and Merlin helicopters as well as Eurofighter Typhoon jets on Baltic NATO air policing duties.
“This exercise holds great importance for Estonia, as its objective, as well as that of the JEF, is national defense and the strengthening of security. If things should get dangerous for us, we’ll have friends who will come and help us out. Residents of Estonia can feel safe, knowing that we are not alone and we have allies. We are getting better and better thanks to these exercises,” Maj. Gen. Martin Herem, EDF commander, said of Thursday’s exercise.
The allied units participating in Baltic Protector are also to engage in shooting exercise at the EDF’s central training area on July 5 to 6, following with exercises involving the defense of the island of Saaremaa, together with Saaremaa and Pärnu Defence League districts personnel, on July 7.
Baltic Protector in Estonia has brought Royal Navy vessels including HMS Albion, HMS Kent, RFA Argus, RFA Lyme Bay, HMS Archer, HMS Exploit, HMS Charger, SD Victoria and MV Hurst Point, as well as the allied mine countermeasures squadron BALTRON, comprising warships LVNS Virsaitis, and LVNS Imanta of the Latvian navy, LNS Skalvis of the Lithuanian navy, and the Estonian navy’s command and support vessel Wambola, plus PPA patrol vessels.
Baltic Protector as a whole has brought together 44 vessels and close to 4,000 allied and partner troops.
The UK-led multinational high-readiness JEF is comprises a pool of high readiness, adaptable rapid response forces. The JEF was initiated in 2015 and its members include forces from the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, as well as those of the U.K. and the three Baltic States.