The UK loans Estonia four armoured vehicles to support counter-terror mission in Mali

The United Kingdom will loan the Estonian Special Forces deploying to Mali four Jackal armoured vehicles to equip them as they join the international fight against Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa.

The British minister for the armed forces, James Heappey, confirmed the loan, plus a three-week training package, for elite soldiers of the Estonian Armed Forces.

“Having served with the Estonians in Afghanistan, I’ve seen first-hand the excellence of their armed forces and the depth of the friendship between our two nations,” Heappey said in a statement by the UK ministry of defence.

“With the Jackal 2, the Estonian Armed Forces will be equipped with a proven, battle-winning vehicle as they join the international effort to tackle terrorism.”

The Jackals will help the Estonians navigate unpredictable terrain in the Sahel, where their presence will add to the UK’s impact on the international effort to fight the illegal migration routes into Europe, and terrorist groups that operate in the region, the UK ministry of defence said.

Boasting a unique air-bag suspension system allowing rapid movement across the roughest terrain, the Jackal has been extensively used by British forces in Afghanistan. Designated as a “high mobility weapons system”, it is designed to protect personnel against roadside explosions and mine attacks but also has an “open” crew compartment and a gun-ring with 360-degree sweep for excellent observation and agility.

A British Army Jackal armoured vehicle at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Photo by Cpl Ian Houlding/MOD, shared under the Open Government License.

A tight-knit defence relationship between the UK and Estonia

“Armed with a general-purpose machine gun for crew protection, it can also carry either a heavy machine gun or a grenade machine gun as the main weapons system in the fire support role,” the UK defence ministry asserted.

“Following three years of close collaboration between the UK and the Estonian Armed Forces on NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence, this loan points to the strength of the two nations’ militaries’ shared objectives and ability to work together,” the ministry added.

The UK and Estonia have forged a tight-knit defence relationship in recent years, with the UK having led a multinational battlegroup in the country as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence since 2017, according to the ministry.

“Over 800 British troops deployed in Estonia build understanding and share expertise with their local EDF counterparts on a daily basis with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers currently providing the bulk of the combat capable force.”

Cover: A British Army Jackal armoured vehicle at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Photo by Cpl Ian Houlding/MOD, shared under the Open Government License.

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