Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, an airborne infantry division of the United States Army, on Friday morning departed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for a Swift Response exercise where they will conduct “joint forcible entry” operations into Estonia in the early hours of Saturday; the airborne exercise is designed to test the American fast response defence of Estonia in case of a theoretical aggression by the Russian Federation.
An estimated 800 paratroopers, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, will parachute to the Nurmsi Airfield in Estonia. The airfield was a Soviet Naval Aviation reserve airfield during the Soviet occupation of Estonia and is located 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) east of Paide in Nurmsi.
About half of the paratroopers will make the 11-hour flight directly from Fort Bragg, while the another half are stationed in Lithuania and will meet up in the air with the rest to make the jump. The US Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft are used to take the paratroopers to the airborne mission in Estonia.
After they land, the paratroopers will rally with their respective units, collect their gear, which includes air-dropped vehicles, artillery and supplies, then conduct an assault against Estonian soldiers acting as an opposition force, according to the ArmyTimes outlet.
Estonian news portal Delfi said that drivers are advised not to stop or park their cars in the area.
A part of the larger defence exercise
Swift Response 2021 is an annual, large-scale US Army-led exercise designed to build strategic and operational readiness between the US, NATO and other European allies.
More than 7,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division will execute three multinational airborne assaults to demonstrate strategic readiness and interoperability. They will be joined by the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the Polish 6th Airborne Brigade and nine other nations. The exercises will take place until 15 May in Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania, according to the Pentagon.
Swift Response is a part of the larger operation, Defender Europe 21 – a multi-national event that will take place until June. Led by the US, this year’s exercise involves 26 nations and 28,000 soldiers, testing operational readiness and interoperability between NATO allies and partners.
“It’s defensive in nature, focused on deterring aggression, while preparing our forces to respond to crisis and conduct large-scale combat operations if necessary,” the Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, said on 3 May during a briefing at the Pentagon.
Most strategically mobile division
The 82nd Airborne Division specialises in parachute assault operations into denied areas with a US Department of Defense requirement to “respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours”. The division is the US Army’s most strategically mobile division.
Estonia joined NATO in 2004. In 2014 – after the Russian Federation invaded Crimea – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland asked the alliance to keep a beefed-up NATO troop presence in their countries. Since then, several Western allies have contributed troops as part of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence. The NATO battlegroups are led by the UK in Estonia, Canada in Latvia, Germany in Lithuania and the US in Poland.
Cover: Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division descend under a parachute canopy to earn foreign jump wings during the 11th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Photo by US Air Force (Public Domain).