NATO

German Air Force pilots to train in the Estonian air space

In the week of 17 December, the allied pilots from the German Air Force, who are based in Ämari, are conducting training flights in the Estonian air space.

According to the Estonian Defence Forces, the planes are to train all over Estonia in low flying areas, but not lower than 152 metres (500 feet) and away from populated areas.

All NATO allies supply specific areas of their air space for conducting trainings and exercises.

The German Air Force, flying the Eurofighter Typhoons, took over the Baltic Air Policing mission in September 2018. They’re based at the Ämari Air Base.

The Baltic Air Policing mission was established in 2004, to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who have no airborne air defence capability of their own, and was extended indefinitely in February 2012.

The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area. To the west of the Baltic states’ airspace is an air corridor often used by aircraft travelling to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad from territorial Russia.

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Cover: Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons (the image is illustrative).

Estonia hosts NATO flagship cyber defence exercise

NATO’s flagship cyber defence exercise, Cyber Coalition, one of the largest such exercises in the world, started on 27 November in Tartu, Estonia, aiming to test and train cyber defenders from across the alliance in their ability to defend NATO and national networks.

The exercise, now in its eleventh year, involves around 700 participants from allies, partners, industry and academia.

The exercise aims to enhance coordination and collaboration between NATO and its allies, strengthen the ability to protect the alliance’s cyberspace and conduct military operations in the cyber domain, NATO said in a statement.

“It will also test NATO and national procedures on information sharing, situational awareness in cyberspace, and decision-making,” the alliance added.

Cyber threats to the alliance are becoming more frequent, complex and destructive. “A cyber-attack on one ally can affect all of us. That is why strengthening cyber defence is a top priority for the alliance, and exercises like Cyber Coalition are essential for building up this defence,” NATO said.

At the NATO summit in July 2018, the allies took the next steps in strengthening defences in the cyber domain, with a new Cyberspace Operations Centre and the ability to draw on allies’ cyber capabilities in NATO missions and operations. These steps will all help make NATO as strong in cyberspace as on land, at sea and in the air, the alliance added.

Since 2007, when Estonia became the first country in the world that was attacked in a cyber conflict, the country has become a global heavyweight in cybersecurity-related knowledge, advising many other states on the matter.

The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) – an operationally independent international military organisation – is also based in Estonia, in Tallinn.

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Cover: Cyber Coalition 2018 exercise in Estonia. Images courtesy of NATO.

US senators at the meeting with the Estonian defence minister, Jüri Luik, in Tallinn.

Republican senators visit Estonia, discuss the security situation

A delegation of American Republican senators visited Estonia on 25 October where they met with the minister of defence and discussed the security situation in the region and defence cooperation issues.

The delegation was led by senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who, at the meeting with the Estonian defence minister, Jüri Luik (Pro Patria), said that the United States has through different defence initiatives always supported strong Trans-Atlantic relations. One of the examples of these initiatives is the new infrastructure constructed at the Ämari Air Base that helps admit additional allied troops, the defence ministry said in a statement.

According to Luik, the US presence in Europe has a strong deterring effect that is key to guarantee peace and stability in Europe. Luik thanked the senators for the European Deterrence Initiative that is designed to support the allies’, including Estonia’s, defence capabilities by building infrastructure and providing military technology.

American aid supports Estonia’s long-term defence plans

Luik also noted that the level of the Estonian defence expenditure helps the country use the American aid effectively and in support of Estonia’s long-term plans.

The defence minister and the US senators also discussed the cooperation between the two countries in cyber defence.

In addition to Burr, the delegation consisted of Susan Collins (R-ME), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

The European Deterrence Initiative is a programme, enacted in 2014, to help strengthen the US presence in Europe to support the continent’s security. The programme has provided over USD32 million to Estonia to reconstruct the Ämari Air Base and the Tapa military complex.

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Cover: US senators at the meeting with the Estonian defence minister, Jüri Luik, in Tallinn. Photo by the Estonian ministry of defence.

Minimum penalty for the Spanish pilot who fired a missile in the Estonian airspace

The Spanish fighter pilot who accidentally fired an air-to-air missile into the Estonian airspace on 7 August has received the minimum penalty from the Spanish Air Force.

The Spanish newspaper, El Pais, reported that the Spanish Air Force had imposed the minimum disciplinary sanction – one week’s pay or 14-day arrest – on the Eurofighter pilot.

The Spanish Air Force concluded that the pilot – a veteran commander – had committed a negligent act, but there were unspecified “mitigating factors”, the newspaper said.

The accidental firing of the AMRAAM air-to-air missile in the Estonian airspace didn’t cause any victims or damage, but it could’ve caused a tragedy, if it had hit one of the other three aircraft participating in the exercise, or hit the ground and exploded.

The incident where the Spanish Eurofighter pilot accidentally launched the AMRAAM missile took place on 7 August at 3:44 PM EEDT near the town of Otepää in a temporarily segregated area.

The AMRAAM type missile is 3.7 metres (12.1 feet) long, with a diameter of 18 cm (7’’) and it carries explosives.

The missile launched in the Estonian airspace is still missing.

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Cover: A Eurofighter Typhoon of the Spanish Air Force (the image is illustrative/Wikimedia Commons).

German jets to patrol the Estonian skies

Germany will be taking over the responsibility of supporting the Baltic Air Policing mission from the Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

From September 2018, the German Air Force is going to augment the Baltic Air Policing mission from the Ämari Air Base, Estonia, with Eurofighter Typhoons. It will be the German Air Force’s ninth contribution to the mission.

The Baltic Air Policing mission was established in 2004, to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who have no airborne air defence capability of their own, and was extended indefinitely in February 2012.

The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area. To the west of the Baltic states’ airspace is an air corridor often used by aircraft travelling to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad from territorial Russia.

Simultaneously, the Belgian Air Force will take the lead over the mission at Šiauliai, Lithuania.

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Cover: Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons (the image is illustrative).

A Spanish fighter jet accidentally launches an air-to-air missile in the Estonian air space

A Spanish Eurofighter jet accidentally launched an air-to-air missile in the Estonian air space on 7 August.

The incident occurred on 7 August at 3:44 PM EEDT near the town of Otepää in a temporarily segregated area. The missile’s direction was north and its exact trajectory, location and fate is unknown.

According to the Estonian Defence Forces, the missile was equipped with a self-destruction mode that should activate when it’s launched by an accident, but it cannot be ruled out that the missile landed on the ground. The AMRAAM type missile is 3.7 metres (12.1 feet) long, with a diameter of 18 cm (7’’) and it carries explosives. The last presumed location of the missile was 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the Estonian town of Tartu.

The defence forces have launched a search mission, using helicopters.

If anyone encounters objects that may be parts of the missile or the missile itself, the defence forces ask the public not to touch it, but retreat and immediately call the air force at +372 717 1900 or the emergency line 112. The defence forces also ask the public not to go searching for the missile.

The Spanish fighter that accidentally launched the missile, an Eurofighter Typhoon 2000, returned to its home base in the Lithuanian town of ŠiauliaiThe defence forces have launched an investigation into the launch.

Aerial military exercises suspended in Estonia

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, said in a Facebook post that even though the incident didn’t bring any casualties, it’s still regrettable. “The defence forces alongside with the participants of the air policing mission are investigating the incident and all institutions are doing everything they can to assure public safety,” he added.

Estonian defence minister Jüri Luik has also ordered the suspension of all aerial military exercises in the country’s air space until all the circumstances in connection to the incident have been resolved.

The Spanish jets are based in Lithuania as part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission that was established in 2004 to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have no airborne air defence capability of their own. The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area.

Typhoon aircraft arrival at the Ämari Air Base in Estonia. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence

The allied jets are based in Šiauliai and Estonia’s Ämari Air Base on a rotational basis. Currently, four French jets are based in Ämari and four Spanish jets in Šiauliai.

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Cover: A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon (the image is illustrative/Wikimedia Commons).

NATO defence ministers approve a new “Four Thirties” plan to defend Europe

NATO defence ministers on 7 June approved a new “Four Thirties” initiative for the defence of Europe, particularly its eastern flank, amid an increasing Russian threat.

The “Four Thirties” plan will enable NATO members to mobilise 30 land battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat vessels within 30 days. According to Deutche Welle, the plan will comprise of around 30,000 troops, 300 aircraft and at least 30 vessels or submarines.

According to Military Times, it’s a readiness plan to counter what the Pentagon perceives as an increasing Russian ground force threat.

These forces could be drawn from across NATO and could rush to the assistance of any NATO ally threatened by Russian ground forces. Most vulnerable to the Russian threat are the NATO allies in Eastern and Northern Europe – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

“This is not about new forces. But about increasing the readiness of the forces our nations already have,” Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, said after the meeting.

A recent study by the Rand Corporation, an American non-profit global policy think tank, showed that the UK, France and Germany could each deploy a heavy brigade to the eastern flank of NATO within a month, but sustaining those forces would be difficult.

“For all three armies, the effort would be a major endeavour that would leave the forces with little spare capacity for any other contingencies,” Rand said in its analysis. “There are also questions about the capabilities that those forces might have at their disposal or their aptitude for the kind of warfare that fighting the Russians might involve.”

This, in turn, means that more US forces would be needed in Europe. This is also the opinion of army general Curtis Scaparotti, the US European commander, who, according to Military Times, said that US resources may need to be diverted from ongoing counterterrorism operations in order to fulfil his task of Russian deterrence. He added that more US troops and spy planes deployed to Europe would help him do a better job.

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Cover: The US Air Force V-22 Osprey aircraft. Photo: US Air Force, public domain.

Infantry soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Photo: IDF, shared under the CC BY 2.0 licence.

Israel to participate in the Saber Strike exercise

Israel is to participate in the Saber Strike exercise, held in part in Estonia, in June 2018.

This year’s Saber Strike, held from 3-15 June, is the first time Israel is to take part in the US-led exercise, held annually in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Altogether, 20 countries will participate in the exercise with over 18,000 soldiers. This year’s participating nations include: Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as NATO.

Soldiers of the Golani Brigade on the Golan Heights. Photo: IDF, shared under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Enhancing readiness

Saber Strike is a United States Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise, designed to enhance readiness and interoperability among allies and regional partners. The exercise has been held annually since 2010.

According to the US Army, an added focus of this year’s exercise is the integration of NATO forces from Multinational Corps – Northeast, Multinational Division – Northeast and the Enhanced Forward Presence Battle groups stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

“These units are part of NATO’s overall deterrence and defense posture and are designed to demonstrate the alliance’s determination and ability to act as one in response to any aggression against its members,” the US Army Europe said in a statement. “The Multinational Corps – Northeast will command and control multinational portions of the exercise.”

Key training events of Saber Strike 2018 include a convoy by 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Germany to Latvia as they participate in different aspects of the exercise; air assault operations in several training areas across the exercise; and bridge and river crossing operations to support freedom of movement, the US Army Europe added.

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Cover: Infantry soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Photo: IDF, shared under the CC BY 2.0 licence.

Estonia one of only three NATO members in the EU to spend enough on defence

Even though the global state of security, especially the potential threat from Russia has only grown in the recent years, only three NATO countries in the European Union hit the alliance’s defence spending target in 2017 – Estonia among them.

In the EU, only Greece, the United Kingdom and Estonia hit the defence spending target of 2% of the GDP, the target set by the NATO guidelines.

On average, the European members of NATO in total spent 1.46% of GDP in 2017, compared with 1.44% of GDP in 2016.

The biggest spender on defence in NATO is the United States, contributing a whopping 3.57% of its GDP. In 2017, it was up by 0.01 percentage points, compared with 2016.

Altogether, the 29 allies of NATO invested more than US$900 billion on defence in 2017, with the US spending accounting for two-thirds of that amount.

Four of 29 countries meet the spending target

The secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said that eight allies were likely to spend the target NATO benchmark of 2% of their GDP on defence in 2018.

In all of NATO, only four countries actually met the defence spending target in 2017 – the US, the UK, Greece and Estonia. Poland came close, but new estimates show it dipped under.

According to the guidelines of the alliance, every member should spend at least two per cent of its GDP on defence. However, it’s just a guideline, not a legally binding requirement – and therefore many members of the alliance feel free to ignore it.

The US president, Donald Trump, has repeatedly criticised the NATO members who aren’t paying their fair share for their own defence, and questioned whether the US would actually come to the aid of the countries who aren’t.

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Cover: The insignia of the Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion of the Estonian Defence Forces (images courtesy of the Estonian Defence Forces).

The British army to deploy four helicopters to Estonia

The British army is to deploy four Lynx Wildcat helicopters to Estonia in April on the helicopter type’s first operational mission.

The helicopters are to spend four months in the country, supporting the 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh battlegroup in Tapa, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported.

The copters are deployed by the UK Army Air Corps.

During the deployment, the Lynx Wildcat helicopters will be supporting Estonian and British troops in training and they will also take part in NATO’s exercise, “Sabre Strike”, which is to involve the armed forces of over 20 countries, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Estonians currently only have four Robinson R-44 light helicopters in their fleet. “So they’re really excited about us bringing a cutting-edge platform, such as [the] Wildcat, to provide air support,” Major Alex Rivett, the commanding officer of 661 Squadron, said, according to Jane’s.

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Cover: A British Army Lynx Wildcat copter (Wikimedia Commons).

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