Baltic Protector forces ready for next test

The UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) are ready to test their ability to respond rapidly to threats and crises in the Baltic region on the next phase of their landmark first deployment.

Covert amphibious raids, urban ambushes and counter-mine training will mark an action-packed third stage of Baltic Protector, on which more than 3,000 British troops and 16 navy ships are currently deployed.

Fresh from NATO exercise, Baltops 19, the next stage of the two-month deployment will see Royal Marines and Royal Navy ships work with JEF allies from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

After a stop for UK ships and personnel in German port of Kiel for its annual yachting/seafaring festival, Marines are heading on two exercises on the eastern shores of the Baltic.

Meanwhile, navy warships and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels are continuing their work in the region with shallow-water mine clearance with the Baltic Mine Countermeasures Squadron.

This will all be coupled with training in amphibious assaults in each of the Baltic states. 

“A JEF task group would probably be first on the scene in Northern Europe because we’re already in the area where the crisis is,” Commodore James Parkin, Task Group Commander, said.

“We are designed to fit into a larger NATO task group, but we can operate independently should we need to.”

Commandos will train alongside Lithuanian Armed Forces in urban surveillance and ambush tactics but also with the Estonian Defence League – Estonia’s national reservist organisation.   

A JEF task group would probably be first on the scene in Northern Europe because we’re already in the area where the crisis is

Commodore James Parkin, Task Group Commander

“The Royal Navy and Royal Marines have stood side by side with the Baltic States during our shared history; most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan but also 100 years ago during their struggle for independence,” said Commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, Brigadier Matt Jackson.

We are proud to be working together again during Baltic Protector.”

After the annual Baltops wars games – the longest running exercise in the region – JEF will reinforce those links by also working with British Army and Royal Air Force colleagues who are deployed on NATO duties.

During this next phase, Royal Engineer Commandos will also conduct urban defensive training with Latvian Armed Forces.

These latest tests will play a big role in helping the nine-nation JEF work together in the future, forging better working relationships and understanding of how each other function and operate.

It is a chance for JEF – made up of the armed forces from the UK, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – to demonstrate solidarity and commitment to the region.

The JEF task group is coming fresh from Baltops, during which they operated under the newly-established US 2nd Fleet.

Eighteen nations, 52 ships and submarines (including six nations’ flagships) and over 8,000 personnel trained together across the span of the Baltic Sea. 

During the exercise, Lieutenant Robert Perren was placed into the US Task Force Command Ship as a liaison officer.

“Getting to work in USS Mount Whitney was a huge privilege. It was great to see that the way we fight and operate is really similar," he said.

The exercise finished with bang on large-scale multinational amphibious landings.

A mock invasion took place and Baltops forces were tasked to dislodge the ‘enemy’ and create the conditions for its liberation.