UK paratroopers have jumped alongside US, Czech Republic, Latvian, Polish and Estonian allies as part of a large-scale American-led military exercise.
Exercise Swift Response, featuring 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team (16 Air Asslt BCT), the British Army’s global response force, demonstrates UK and Allied ability to deploy and work together at high readiness.
Hosted at 6th Polish Airborne Brigade (6th Abn Bde) barracks in Gliwice, Poland, and landing over Nurmsi airfield, Estonia, a total of around 1,500 personnel from the six nations are taking part in what is known in military jargon as a joint forcible entry operation.
Personnel from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA) jumped in darkness in two separate waves on 11/12 May, exiting aircraft at around 900ft. Once on the ground they secured the airfield from a simulated enemy threat, provided by the Estonian Territorial Defence Force (TDF), before preparing to move into a tactical training exercise.
Ahead of the paratroopers, 16 Air Asslt BCT’s advance force Pathfinders had flown in an RAF C-17 Globemaster direct from RAF Brize Norton to covertly jump into Estonia from 12,000ft under freefall canopies. Working on the ground alongside their 6th Abn Bde counterparts, the reconnaissance experts identified and marked a drop zone for the main body of troops to parachute onto.
This clearly demonstrates the UK’s contribution to the projection of high readiness forces as part of a combat credible force in large scale combat operations and increases the scale of operating with NATO partners.
Lieutenant Colonel David Middleton, Commanding Officer 2 PARA, said: “I have been deeply impressed by the common purpose shared by all the nations taking part in Exercise Swift Response. There is a real commitment to training hard together to be ready for the most difficult of operations – warfighting against a peer enemy.”
Major Mike Thwaite, Second in Command of 2 PARA said: “We’re held at very high readiness to respond to crises anywhere on the planet at a moment’s notice. Opportunities like Swift Response, where we’re operating at reach with other NATO partners, greatly enhances our interoperability and ensures we’re ready for anything.”
Colonel Viktor Kanitski, commanding the Estonian Defence Forces component of Swift Response 23, said: “Several airborne operations will take place during the course of the exercise, with the aim of rehearsing rapid transfer of allies and of the immediate commencement of assigned tasks.
“For the Estonian TDF, it is vital we keep rehearsing support activities pertaining to the host nation – comprehensively ensuring and securing allied reception and coordinating and organization various operations on land and in the air.”
Swift Response 23 runs May 7-20 inclusive, with simultaneous activities taking place in Spain and Greece as part of the larger scale U.S. Exercise Defender 23.
The United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) is involved, while the exercise is related also to Anakonda 23, taking part in Poland at the same time.