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Home > Features > Spring Storm In The Baltic Region ~ Part Three – LYNX 9

Spring Storm In The Baltic Region ~ Part Three – LYNX 9

A French fire team from the Régiment de Marche du Tchad closes on the objective during NATO eFP interoperability training with 1 MERCIAN in Estonia [©Bob Morrison]

In Part Three of Spring Storm In The Baltic Region our focus falls on France’s LYNX 9 contingent and on UK-French interoperability training, reports Bob Morrison.

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The day after witnessing the FIRES SHOCK 2021 MLRS live-fire on Estonia’s Central Training Area, while American and British paratroopers were preparing for their weather-delayed transatlantic Joint Forcible Entry onto Nurmsi Drop Zone, we joined British and French troops deployed on the NATO eFP (enhanced Forward Presence) mission as Battle Group Estonia.

French combat engineers from 13e Régiment du Génie acted as OpFor militia for the attacking infantry [©BM]

In the run-up to the FTX (field training exercise) phase of KEVADTORM 2021 (SPRING STORM 2021) the troops were practising platoon-level interoperability drills on the perimeter of an abandoned former Cold War Era airfield with some of the combat engineers from the French contingent acting as OpFor militia. We watched from one of the objectives as a platoon of French infantry using Mercian Regiment Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and supported by Royal Tank Regiment Challenger 2 main battle tanks plus French VBL scout cars assaulted and overran the position.

This engineer is armed with an almost new 5.56mm HK416F assault rifle ~ yellow BFA and magazine are for use when blank ammo is being used [©BM]
This engineer is armed with the outgoing 5.56mm FAMAS assault rifle, affectionately know as the Bugle [©BM]

That day the Deputy Chief of Operations of the Military Staff (SCOPS) of the French Armed Forces, General Stéphane Mille, who was in Tallinn for the Military European Strategic Talks of the European Intervention Initiative, managed to slot in a flying visit to his troops deployed to Tapa on the eFP mission. For the general’s benefit a demonstration of British and French logistics interoperability was also laid on, which we were invited to watch, but interesting as that would have been I opted instead to head out (having of course first sought permission from the French officer in charge of safety) to some of the ruins being defended by the French sappers as this would allow me to be much closer to the action than the overview position from where the four-star would be watching the big picture.

The French contingent currently deployed in support of the UK-led NATO eFP Battle Group Estonia [BG EST] is roughly three hundred strong and deployed for one year; the participating troops, however, are on two six month roulements. A Danish Army contingent alternates with the French, who are currently on their third BG EST deployment, and a little later during KEVADTORM 2021 we had the chance to work with their Jutland Dragoons whose equipment had arrived by sea to temporarily reinforce the easternmost Baltic battlegroup for the duration of the exercise.

French infantry closing on the objective ~ a position can seldom be held and secured without putting boots on the ground [©BM]

The current French SGTIA (Sous-Groupement Tactique InterArmes or All-Arms Tactical Sub-Group) on the LYNX 9 mission is roughly 200-strong and primarily comprises: two platoons of Leclerc main battle tanks and a reconnaissance platoon from the 12e Régiment de Cuirassiers; an infantry platoon from the Régiment de Marche du Tchad, with VBCI 8×8 armoured infantry vehicles; a combat engineer platoon from the 13e Régiment du Génie, with an engineer variant of the VAB 4×4 armoured personnel carrier; and a fires observation and coordination team from 40e Régiment d’Artillerie; All units are drawn from the 2nd Armoured Brigade or 2e Brigade Blindée. There is also a Headquarters element and a National Support Element, with logistics and military police units, which brings the total French contribution to BG EST up to around 300 personnel.

Proof of the ‘boots on the ground’ maxim ~ Régiment de Marche du Tchad infantry have now occupied and secured the objective, as the NCO is reporting back [©BM]
A back shot of the French infantry for kit and camo collectors and enthusiasts [©BM]

Back to the little picture: Training as a ‘mix & match’ formation down at platoon level, with French infantry being transported in British fighting vehicles with British tanks in support and French light armoured vehicles covering their flanks, both improves communications between allied units down at the sharp end and gives the troops and senior NCOs a better understanding of how their allies operate. In simple terms, it breaks down potential national barriers and builds a more effective team down at the frontline; interestingly, just as it was in the old days of the multinational ACE Mobile Force exercises during the Cold War, football still seems to be the primary topic which unites troops of different nationalities and gets them talking to each other.

A French combat engineer VAB ~ I plan to produce a small vehicles album at a later stage for those interested in the French types used on in Estonia [©BM]

In due course the French eFP contingent will be re-equipped with the new VBMR Griffon 6×6 in place of the VBCI and the VBMR-L Serval 4×4 in place of the VAB, and the smaller VBL 4×4 will be replaced by the upgraded VBL Ultima version, but that is still a little way down the line. However infantry personnel currently serving in Estonia, plus some of the combat engineers too, are now armed with the new 5.56mm HK416F assault rifle, which is replacing the distinctive bullpup design FAMAS F1.

British Warrior and French VBL armoured cars ~ note the Javelin missile rack inside the rear door of the Warrior [©BM]
The British (left) and French (right) commanders, both lieutenant colonels, following the training serial at Tapa ~ note the Stafford Knot on Lt Col Clayton’s right sleeve [©BM]
The British battlegroup in Estonia at the time of KEVADTORM 2021 was led by 1st Battalion of the Mercian Regiment or 1 MERCIAN [©BM]
Finally, for the camo enthusiasts, the French contingent wore their standard CE (Centre Europe) four-colour pattern ~ this is the back panel of an officer’s combat jacket snapped on the day at the after action review [©BM]

For Part Four of Spring Storm In The Baltic Region the action will move to Nurmsi Drop Zone, if all goes to plan.

[images © Bob Morrison]

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