21 Mar 2017

Biggest British deployments to Eastern Europe in decades

UK troops arrive in Estonia as part of one of the biggest British deployments to Eastern Europe in decades.

Around 120 UK troops from the 5th Battalion the Rifles Battlegroup (5 Rifle), including members of an Armoured Engineer Squadron, Military Police Detachment, Artillery Group and Port Task Group, arrived at Amari airbase last night.

Flying from RAF Brize Norton by Voyager aircraft, they were welcomed on arrival by Estonia’s Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna.

The 120 soldiers are fundamental to setting up a UK headquarters in the country before the rest of the UK deployment arrives next month, increasing the total number of troops in Estonia to around 800. The deployment is designed to assure NATO allies of the mutual commitment to collective European security, with the UK taking a leading role in NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence.

The UK is working with French personnel, and from next year, Danish partners.

All are there at the request of the Estonian Government. The Battlegroup will provide a proportionate, defensive, and combat capable force to defend our NATO ally and deter any form of hostile activity against the Alliance.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “In the face of an increasingly assertive Russia, NATO is stepping up its commitment to collective defence. British troops will play a leading role in Estonia and support our US allies in Poland, as part of wider efforts to defend NATO.

“Our rising defence budget means we can support those deployments in the long-term and strengthen our commitment to European security.”

Commanding Officer of 5 Rifles Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wilson added: “The UK and Estonia have a long and proud history of serving together, including in Afghanistan, so it is an honour to lead 5 RIFLES on this deployment as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence. My soldiers are looking forward to again be working, training and exercising alongside their Estonian counterparts.”

Over 300 UK vehicles have also departed to Estonia, including Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, Challenger 2 tanks and AS90 self-propelled artillery pieces.

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