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SWIFT RESPONSE 21 ~ Joint Forcible Entry – Estonia

US 3 ABCT Lt Col and UK 2 Para Major liaise on the edge of the drop zone in Estonia at dawn on Saturday [©Bob Morrison]

In the early hours of Saturday 08 May a joint force from US 82nd Airborne Division and UK 16 Air Assault Brigade parachuted into Estonia, writes Bob Morrison.


SWIFT RESPONSE 21 is a linked exercise of DEFENDER-Europe 21 which involves Special Operations activities, Air Assaults, and Live Fire Exercises in Estonia, Bulgaria, and Romania, demonstrating airborne interoperability among NATO allies.

US Army Soldiers of Echo Company, 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, parachuting onto the field for the Joint Forcible Entry operation for SWIFT RESPONSE 21, Nurmsi, 08 May 2021 [ US Army: Spc. Christian Cote]

After covering US and UK artillery live-firing on Exercise FIRES SHOCK and FR and UK troops mounting an inter-operability demo on Operations LYNX / CABRIT last week in the Tapa area, we relocated to Nurmsi airfield early on Saturday morning to link up with SWIFT RESPONSE 21 and be in place for the follow-on heliborne air assault mission planned for later in the day (which will be covered in a later article).

[ Video by US Army Spc. Denice Lopez]

US Army Spc. Denice Lopez was not afforded the luxury of sleep overnight Friday/Saturday as she was tasked with producing the accompanying video of the drop. In addition to the fleet of C-17 aircraft (convoy callsign REACH 700, for those with access to FlightRadar) which crossed the Atlantic on Friday afternoon with airborne personnel, vehicles and equipment on board, a second wave of transport aircraft flying from Lithuania with more US Paras on board added to the Joint Forcible Entry operation.


US MLRS crew reloads their launcher prior to a fire mission as part of the FIRES SHOCK phase of DEF21 in Estonia, 05 May [© Bob Morrison]

Background: 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’s exercise:-

  • Focuses on building operational readiness and interoperability with a greater number of NATO allies and partners over a wider area of operations
  • Is defensive in nature and focused on responding to crisis if necessary
  • Demonstrates that the US commitment to NATO is iron clad
  • Integrates approximately 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations to conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in 12 countries.
  • Includes strict COVID prevention and mitigation measures, such as pre-deployment COVID testing and quarantining.
  • Has significant involvement of the US Air Force and US Navy.
  • Utilises key ground and maritime routes bridging Europe, Asia and Africa
  • Exercises new high-end capabilities such the new US Army Security Force Assistance Brigades, air and missile defence assets and the recently reactivated V Corps
  • Demonstrates our ability to serve as a strategic security partner in the western Balkans and Black Sea regions while sustaining our abilities in northern Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Africa.
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