In 2018 our Senior Correspondent, Carl Schulze, visited the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group in Estonia after the Danes joined the British-led formation.
Since early 2017 the British Army has provided the core of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Estonia (eFP BG EST) under Operation CABRIT on a persistent, rotational basis. From late 2017 through to summer 2018 the core of the battle group was provided by the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh.
During the 2016 Warsaw Summit the NATO member states decided to improve the forward presence in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the alliance’s territory in order to deter further Russian expansion. Following the decision, four multinational battalion-size battle groups were deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on a rotational basis. The enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Estonia is led by the British Army and between October 2017 and July 2018 the armoured battle group consisted of both British and Danish troops, as well as a strategic communication civilian from Iceland, numbering a total of 987 troops.
1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh.
On 30th October 2017 the 5th Battalion, The Rifles officially handed over the eFP BG EST mission to the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh (1 R WELSH), which inherited the role for eight month before handing it over to the 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (1 YORKS) in July 2018. The 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh is the only armoured infantry battalion of its regiment and its home base is Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth. The unit falls under the Bulford-based 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade that belongs to the formations commanded by the 3rd (United Kingdom) Division. The unit deployed with its Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company, three Armoured Infantry Companies (A, B and C) and its Fire Support Company to Estonia, with the latter including the battalion’s mortar-, reconnaissance, anti-tank and sniper platoons.
The FV510 Warrior Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle, in the section vehicle configuration, serves as main weapon system of the unit with variants of it such the FV 511 Warrior Infantry Command Vehicle, the FV 512 Warrior Mechanised Combat Repair Vehicle and FV 513 Warrior Mechanised Recovery Vehicle (Repair) also fielded. The reconnaissance platoon of the battalion is equipped with FV107 Scimitar 235 CVR(T) tracked reconnaissance vehicles while its mortar platoon fields FV432 Mk3 Bulldog Mortar Carrier equipped with 81mm L16A2 mortars. Also mounted on the Warrior Infantry Section Vehicle, the anti-tank platoon of the battalion is equipped with Javelin Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon Systems (LFATGWS).
British Combat Support and Combat Service Support Assets.
1 R WELSH was reinforced by a squadron of the Tidworth-based (Aliwal Barracks) King’s Royal Hussars, equipped with ten Challenger 2 main battle tanks. Artillery support for the eFP BG EST was provided by elements of the Tidworth-based (Bhurtpore Barracks) 19th Regiment Royal Artillery, equipped with 155 mm AS90 Self-Propelled Howitzers (SPH). Engineer support for the battle group was provided by Tidworth-based (Swinton Barracks) 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron of 26 Engineer Regiment Royal Engineers; equipment fielded by the engineers included vehicles such as the TITAN Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB), the TROJAN Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) and the TERRIER Combat Engineer Vehicle (CEV).
Combat Service Support for BG EST was provided by elements of the Royal Military Police, the Royal Signals, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and the Royal Logistics Corps. The formation was also augmented by four Augusta-Westland Lynx Wildcat AH1 multi-role helicopters that could be employed for reconnaissance, command and control, transportation of troops and material, and the provision of force protection.
In 2018 the 200-strong Danish contingent of the multinational BG EST was provided by Vidar Company of the Garde Husar Regimentet, supported by a National Support Element. The armoured infantry company was equipped with CV9035DK Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Pansrede Mandskabsvogne (PMV) M113G4 Lang Armoured Personnel Carriers.
The accompanying photos were taken during Exercise SIIL (HEDGEHOG) 18, held in May 2018, which was one of the major training events that saw the participation of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Estonia alongside local Regular and Reserve Forces. From top left to bottom right:-
- The armament of the FV510 Warrior AIFV consists of a 30mm L21 Rarden automatic cannon and a coaxial 7.62mm L94A1 Chain Gun
- The armament of the Challenger 2 consists of a 120mm L30A1 rifled tank gun, a coaxial 7.62mm L94A1 machine gun and a 7.62mm L7A2 GPMG for close protection purposes
- Major training exercises in Estonia are held on public ground and open roads rather than on clinical closed ranges
- Exercising in realistic settings has major training benefits for the troops and also keeps public awareness of the armed forces to the fore
- The FV432 Mk3 Bulldog Armoured Personnel Carrier is fielded in different variants by the British contingent of the eFP BG EST
- British troops deployed in a realistic urban environment in the centre of Valga during Exercise SIIL 2018
- The Danish eFP Company predominantly used the CV9035DK Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle with 35mm Bushmaster III automatic cannon
- In addition to CV9035DK the Danish eFP Company fielded a number of Pansrede Mandskabsvogne (PMV) M113G4 Lang armoured personnel carriers
[ images © Carl Schulze ]