The pace of DEFENDER-Europe 21 (DEF21) and the linked exercises is picking up momentum from the Balkans to the Baltic.
Following Monday’s arrival in Albania of US Naval Ship Bob Hope, the first fast sealift ship carrying vehicles and equipment over from the United States for DEF21, a US Army Logistics Support Vessel (LSV-6 SP4 James A. Loux) anchored at the Port of Durres prior to commencing the execution of a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) operation. This JLOTS operation will demonstrate the ability to move massive amounts of equipment and supplies quickly from ship to shore, rather than direct from the Ro-Ro fast sealift ship straight onto the dockside, as we witnessed at Bremerhaven during DEF20, in order to support thousands of troops in the field as they train to respond to any threat or crisis during DEFENDER-Europe 21 exercises across the European theatre. Regrettably, because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, we were unable to be present in Durres to watch the start of the JLOTS operation today but we will try to post official images in due course.
Yesterday, Friday 30th, at the opposite end of Europe from Albania in the Balkans Peninsula, US Army soldiers assigned to the 41st Field Artillery Brigade landed in Estonia in the Baltic Region to “kick off FIRES SHOCK and SWIFT RESPONSE 21 with a boom”. The ‘Rail Gunners’ from 41 FAB are in Estonia to conduct a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) live-fire next week to notionally suppress enemy air defence systems in support of the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division airborne operation the following day.
Previously, on Wednesday 28th, US Army Paratroopers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conducted cold load training with flight crews from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. This training taught them how to safely load a UH-60 Blackhawk with their equipment, offload quickly and provide security. The training was in preparation for their participation in Exercise SWIFT RESPONSE 21, a multinational airborne exercise involving 7,000 Paratroopers from ten nations, which begins the DEFENDER-Europe exercise series.
DEFENDER-Europe is an annual large-scale US Army-led, multinational, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between US, NATO and Partner militaries. This year, more than 28,000 multinational forces from 27 nations will conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in more than a dozen countries from the Baltics to the strategically important Balkans and Black Sea Region.