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Home > Exercise News > Defending Estonia – Exercise SIIL 2022

Defending Estonia – Exercise SIIL 2022

Challenger 2 main battle tanks of Ajax Squadron, The Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) of the NATO eFP (enhanced Forward Presence) Battle Group Estonia (BG EST) advance to contact during SIIL 2022 [© Carl Schulze]

Exercise SIIL 2022 is being conducted across Estonia with action on the island of Saaremaa, in the southern region, and on Keskpolügoon CTA, reports Carl Schulze.

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The SIIL (HEDGEHOG) series of exercises is the largest held by the Eesti Kaitsevägi (Estonian Defence Forces). Conducted every three, or four, years SIIL aims to test both the combat readiness of the EDF and their ability to respond to different threat scenarios in an international framework. The 2022 iteration of Exercise SIIL 2022 is scheduled to take place between the 16th of May and 3rd of June.

Elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) were put ashore on the island of Saaremaa by Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) of the US Navy [© Carl Schulze]

In total some 15,000 troops are participating in SIIL 2022. This number includes troops of the Estonian Army, Air Force, Navy, Defence League, Cyber Command, Support Command and Special Operations Command, as well as 4,200 troops from ten NATO allies and Partnership for Peace (PfP) nations. Of the participating Estonian troops 2,000 are Active Duty personnel, 2,500 are Conscripts and 7,100 are Reservists or volunteers from the Estonian Defence League. The Allied troops involved primarily originate from Denmark, France, Finland, Latvia, the United Kingdom and the United States. They include, among other formations, the British-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group Estonia (BG EST) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

Estonian infantry of the Kuperjanovi Jalaväepataljon (Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion) from 2. Jalaväebrigaad (Infantry Brigade) provides overwatch for a minefield [© Carl Schulze]

Exercise SIIL 2022 is being conducted all over Estonia, with the main action taking place on the island of Saaremaa, in the southern region between and north of the Varga/Võru axis, and on the Keskpolügoon (Central Training Area) of the Estonian Defence Forces. The manoeuvres are mainly divided into three phases:-

  • Phase I, from the 16th to the 22nd May 2022 initially saw the troops forming up and Reservists reporting to their units. It also saw units then deploying to their operational area and conducting integration training, as well as preparation work for the upcoming combat phase; for example the building of defensive positions.
  • Phase II takes part between the 23rd and 26th May 2022 and is the field training part of the exercise, conducted as force-on-force training with the major training audience being Estonia’s 2. Jalaväebrigaad or 2nd Light Infantry Brigade.
  • Phase III will be conducted between the 27th of May and the 3rd of June 2022 and will see some of the exercise troops conducting live fire training at the Keskpolügoon or Central Training Area of the Estonian Defence Forces. The end of this phase will also sees the troops conducting their redeployment procedures.
The Oshkosh JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) seen here in two-door version towing a JLTV-T, with a four-door Heavy Guns Carrier version behind left on the LCAC, is replacing the HMMWV in US service
[© Carl Schulze]

Directly after covering Exercise IRON WOLF 2022-I in Lithuania, your reporter relocated to Saaremaa Island off the west coast of Estonia to cover the initial landing by US Marines from the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Group and the 22nd MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) before linking up with eFP BG EST in the south.

This Patria Pasi XA-188 APC is from the Estonian Viru Jalaväepataljon (Mechanised Infantry Battalion) of 1. Jalaväebrigaad which is playing OpFor (Opposing Forces) against the main exercising force [© Carl Schulze]
A Javelin Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (1 R WELSH) provides cover for advancing FV510 Warrior armoured infantry fighting vehicles [© Carl Schulze]
The enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Estonia (eFP BG EST) currently includes a French mechanised infantry company equipped with VAB 4×4 wheeled armoured personnel carriers [© Carl Schulze]
This Piranha V 8×8 APC of the Viking Company of the Danish Jydske Dragon Regiment is equipped with a dozer blade and can be employed to clear obstacles or construct defensive works [© Carl Schulze]
During SIIL 2022 British Wildcat Mk1 helicopters of 659 Squadron, 1 Army Air Corps are performing a range of tasks on the battlefield including reconnaissance, command and control and transportation of troops and materiel [© Carl Schulze]
FV510 Warrior armoured infantry fighting vehicles are employed by the armoured infantry of the UK’s 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (1 R WELSH) [© Carl Schulze]

[Text and images © Carl Schulze]

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