In December, the United States will deploy additional rotational forces to Estonia.
The deployment is part of a longer series of rotations constituting a persistent, “heel-to-toe US presence” in the Baltic states, the Estonian defence ministry said.
The deployment consists of an infantry company and a HIMARS platoon, as well as associated command and control equipment and systems.
The HIMARS, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is a missile launcher mounted on a five-tonne truck. The system can fire six guided missiles in quick succession, with a range of up to 80 kilometres (50 miles). The HIMARS can also fire a single ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) missile, which has a range of 300 kilometres (186 miles).
The units will train and increase interoperability with the Estonian Defense Forces – and will “defend [the country], if needed,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
In early December, Estonia signed a contract with the US to purchase six HIMARS rocket launcher systems of its own. The Estonian defence minister, Hanno Pevkur, said that “being able to learn the ropes early” with the US troops will make the adoption [of Estonia’s HIMARS] “even smoother and win the country critical time.”
The Estonian Defense Forces will also work with the US on establishing a divisional structure in Estonia under the framework of NATO. Estonia will join the US Warfighter programme, comprising a series of exercises culminating in a capstone training event that will give certification to the participating corps and division formations.
In addition to the recent US deployments, Estonia hosts the UK-led NATO battlegroup, consisting of British, French and Danish units and Icelandic specialists. The country’s air space is protected by NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, with rotating allied jets based in Estonia’s Ämari Air Base and Lithuania’s Šiauliai Air Base.