Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon fighter jets and Army Air Corps Apache helicopters concluded Spring Tempest, a training exercise off the coast of Estonia on 3 June, in which they practiced firing their heavy machine guns and advanced missiles and at targets in the sea.
The exercise was conducted jointly with Estonia and France and demonstrated the ability of the UK and its Allies to deliver precision strikes while operating deep in enemy battlespace.
The Apache attack helicopters, from the Army Air Corps Aviation Taskforce (1AAC ATF), were armed for their mission with Hellfire missiles, CRV7 rockets and 30mm rounds, while the Typhoon jets, from 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), were armed with Paveway IV laser guided bombs and 27mm armour piercing rounds.
"Exercise Spring Tempest has been an outstanding opportunity to integrate effects across the Land, Maritime and Air domains,” said Wing Commander Scott MacColl, 140 Expeditionary Air Wing’s Commanding Officer. “Working with the Royal Navy and Army has allowed us to exercise high-end skill sets, while enhancing interoperability across a broad range of NATO allies."
The mission was supported by a Forward Air Controller, operating nearby from a Wildcat helicopter. Both types of helicopter worked in tandem with ground-based personnel to refuel and rearm before transiting back to the mission area.
This training follows on from Exercise Spring Storm, the largest annual military exercise in Estonia involving the UK-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), which saw more than 1,500 UK soldiers training alongside more than 10,000 personnel from 11 NATO countries.
At last year’s NATO Leaders Summit in Madrid, the UK committed to increase the size of its contribution and capability, with this year’s exercise marking the first time the UK has conducted a brigade-level deployment to Estonia – involving hundreds more personnel being deployed from the UK.
Land-based training exercises saw UK soldiers, deployed to bolster the eFP under the Army’s Operation CABRIT, as well as tanks and armoured vehicles, practicing live firing in a series of different scenarios, conducting trench assaults, reconnaissance missions, vehicle manoeuvres, and combined arms warfare.
The Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ship, HMS Albion, carrying approximately 550 sailors and Royal Marines, has joined up with the RAF and the Army to take part in the NATO training exercises happening in the region. During recent weeks, she has landed marines from 45 Commando for a dawn beach raid exercise.
The ship and crew also supported a further training exercise recently off the coast of Paldiski, which saw the three services testing their capability in a fully-integrated manner. Typhoon jets, Apache, and Wildcat helicopters flew in a tight, programmed formation overhead, as the Royal Marines transported soldiers from the Queen’s Royal Hussars and their 62-tonne main battle tanks from the shore into HMS Albion’s dock.
The RAF has also been bolstering NATO’s presence, currently leading the Alliance’s air policing mission in Estonia with more than 200 personnel based at Amari Air Base, which has led to several air intercepts of Russian aircraft by RAF fighter jets.