The UK has been conducting major multi-domain training activity in Estonia, exercising alongside more than 10,000 personnel from 11 NATO countries.
RAF Typhoon fighter jets and Army Air Corps Apache helicopters concluded a training exercise off the coast of Estonia on Friday, in which they practiced firing their heavy machine guns and advanced missiles at targets in the sea.
The exercise, named Spring Tempest, was conducted jointly with Estonia and France and demonstrated the ability of the UK and its Allies to deliver precision strikes while operating deep in enemy battlespace.
The Apache attack helicopters, from the Army Air Corps Aviation Taskforce (1AAC ATF), were armed for their mission with Hellfire missiles, CRV7 rockets and 30mm rounds, while the Typhoon jets, from 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), were armed with Paveway IV laser guided bombs and 27mm armour piercing rounds.
Wing Commander Scott MacColl, 140 Expeditionary Air Wing’s Commanding Officer, said:
“Exercise Spring Tempest has been an outstanding opportunity to integrate effects across the Land, Maritime and Air domains. Working with the Royal Navy and Army has allowed us to exercise high-end skill sets, while enhancing interoperability across a broad range of NATO allies.
“The flexibility to operate effectively across differing environments demonstrates our key contribution to collective defence and regional security. As important, the scale of this exercise further develops Alliance cohesion and cross nation understanding.”
The mission was supported by a Forward Air Controller, operating nearby from a Wildcat helicopter. Both types of helicopter worked in tandem with ground-based personnel to refuel and rearm before transiting back to the mission area.
This training follows on from Exercise Spring Storm, the largest annual military exercise in Estonia involving the UK-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), which saw more than 1,500 UK soldiers training alongside more than 10,000 personnel from 11 NATO countries.
At last year’s NATO Leaders Summit in Madrid, the UK committed to increase the size of its contribution and capability, with this year’s exercise marking the first time the UK has conducted a brigade-level deployment to Estonia – involving hundreds more personnel being deployed from the UK.
Land-based training exercises saw UK soldiers, deployed to bolster the eFP under the Army’s Operation CABRIT, as well as tanks and armoured vehicles, practicing live firing in a series of different scenarios, conducting trench assaults, reconnaissance missions, vehicle manoeuvres, and combined arms warfare.
Commander of Op CABRIT, Brigadier Giles Harris, said:
“Exercise Spring Tempest clearly demonstrates the successful integration of our land, aviation and air capabilities. It comes as we end Exercise Spring Storm 2023, the largest iteration of its kind with some 14,000 personnel taking part across land, sea and air domains. Through rigorous training with our allies, we prove we are a capable, flexible multinational force.”
The Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ship, HMS Albion, carrying approximately 550 sailors and Royal Marines, has joined up with the RAF and the Army to take part in the NATO training exercises happening in the region. During recent weeks, she has landed marines from 45 Commando for a dawn beach raid exercise.
The ship and crew also supported a further training exercise last weekend off the coast of Paldiski, which saw the three services testing their capability in a fully-integrated manner. Typhoon jets, Apache, and Wildcat helicopters flew in a tight, programmed formation overhead, as the Royal Marines transported soldiers from the Queen’s Royal Hussars and their 62-tonne main battle tanks from the shore into HMS Albion’s dock.
Captain Marcus Hember, HMS Albion’s Commanding Officer, said:
“It is not often the Royal Navy, RAF and Army are in the same place at the same time with major assets.
“This gave us the opportunity to test how we can work together at sea, proving again the Royal Navy can move Army heavy equipment on and off a shoreline whilst being safely covered air by the RAF and Army Air Corps.”
The eFP provides a continuous NATO presence along its eastern border, with deployed troops acting as a deterrence against any aggression towards the Alliance’s borders.
The RAF has also been bolstering NATO’s presence, currently leading the Alliance’s air policing mission in Estonia with more than 200 personnel based at Amari Air Base, which has led to several air intercepts of Russian aircraft by RAF fighter jets.
The operational activity underlines the UK’s commitment to European security, which is vital to delivering on the Prime Minister’s priority of growing the economy.