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US troops. Photo credit: Scandinavian backlash

Largest US exercise in Europe in 25 years kicks off in Estonia

The active phase of the Swift Response exercise, which started this week in Estonia, will begin when the MLRS multi-missile launchers are fired at the Defence Forces' central polygon.

Published: May 6, 2021, 10:32 am


    The battles are led by the 41st US Artillery Brigade. During the exercise, more than 10 missiles will be fired out of five rocket launchers. Due to the fighting, more noise than usual and the movement of Defence Forces units will be evident.

    The multi-missile MLRS system allows the attack of high-value targets at great distances.

    On the evening of May 7, the 82nd United States Airborne Division will hold an air landing at Nurms Airport, where hundreds of parachutes will descend on the airport, as well as equipment from the planes. The main part of the landing unit arrives in Estonia directly from the US, North Carolina. The air landing is organized at night in a tactical situation as close to reality as possible.

    Access to Nurms Airport will be prohibited during the landing and the area is guarded by military police.

    On the afternoon and night of May 8, US troops will travel by helicopter from Nurms Airport to the Central Army Training Ground, where the helicopter landings will take place.

    Among the Estonian units, the 1st Infantry Brigade together with the NATO Allied Battle Group and the Special Operations Command, the units of the Defence League’s Alutaguse, Järva and Viru Squadrons will take part in the exercise.

    The Swift Response exercise is part of the US-led Exercise Series Defender Europe 21, the largest US-led exercise in Europe in 25 years. Defender Europe will be repeated simultaneously in 16 European countries, with a total of 28 000 troops participating. In addition to Estonia, airborne operations will take place in Bulgaria and Romania.

    Within the framework of Swift Response, nearly 2500 members of the Defence Forces from Estonia, the USA and the United Kingdom, with more than 20 planes and 25 helicopters will take part in the exercise.

    The purpose of the exercise is to test the ability of the US and NATO to launch an offensive strike against Russia in the Balkans, the Black Sea and Baltic countries. In line with its “Global Strategy” and revised Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the EU appears to be seeking to expand its role in NATO through PESCO and other military channels.

    Introduced by the Lisbon Treaty on European Union (article 42.6, 46 and Protocol 10), PESCO is a framework and process to deepen defence cooperation between those EU Member States.

    At least 21 NATO member states as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia are currently conducting war exercises in the Black Sea region as part of the US initiative. This was also the first time Albania has hosted a US-led, multinational exercise. The Swift Response exercise ends on May 14.

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