Six hundred Royal Marines from 45 Commando in Arbroath are amongst 3000 personnel and 17 naval vessels from nine countries taking part in a major military exercise in the Baltic Sea region amid concerns over increased Russian activity.
Approximately 1100 Royal Marine, Army and Royal Navy Commandos, from seven different UK Commando Units, are taking part in Exercise Baltic Protector alongside Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) partners from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Norway.
Ex Baltic Protector, the largest JEF maritime deployment ever held, aims to “demonstrate its ability to provide reassurance in the region” while working alongside NATO allies.
Training is also being conducted with wider NATO partners as part of the long-established US-led BALTOPS series of exercises. This involves Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Turkey.
The JEF is a high-readiness force of nine partner nations which complements NATO and is designed to be deployed at any time and in any environment.
Describing the exercise as “measured posture and prudent activity for regional security” rather than provocation towards Russia, the Ministry of Defence describes JEF as a “force of friends, operating together, that contributes a key component of European security.”
“45 Commando RM are at the forefront of JEF(M),” a Royal Navy spokesperson said.
“About 600 personnel from 45 Commando Group have deployed from RM Condor in Arbroath on Ex Baltic Protector.
“This number includes Royal Marines, personnel from 29 Commando Royal Artillery, 24 Commando Royal Engineers and 1 Mil Working Dogs.
“So far, the unit has trained with personnel from the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps (Korps Mariniers) and the Danish Defence Forces in Oksbol, Denmark.
“As part of the exercise scenario, 45 Commando launched amphibious raids against a Danish ‘enemy’ along the coast.
“These raids involved amphibious landings using landing craft and helicopters.
“The various sub-units which make up 45 Commando have completed a whole host of training to enhance their amphibious capability, including: live-fire exercises, urban/close quarters battle (CQB) training, aerial assaults and ‘fast-roping’ from helicopters, amphibious insertions from maritime assets, and counter-CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) training.
“Z Coy are 45 Commando’s counter-CBRN ‘enhanced generalists’.”
The MoD says it is important that the UK, together with its main allies and partners, participate on these exercises to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to maintaining security in the region, conduct interoperability training and ensure the UK is fully compatible if it were required to “react to any eventuality that may arise”.
It was also an “excellent opportunity” for the UK-led battlegroup deployed in Estonia for NATO’s enhanced forward presence – currently led by the King’s Royal Hussars – to conduct interoperability and integration training and exercise critical command and control relationships.
Lieutenant James Thomas RM, OC 7 Tp, Yankee Company, 45 Commando Group, said: “It’s been a fantastic opportunity to work with our Danish and Dutch colleagues on Exercise Baltic Protector.
“Working with our international partners and developing our interoperability is hugely important as it allows us to integrate quickly and effectively in the event of a crisis.
“The training has been very challenging and has tested us on many levels – it’s not often we get the opportunity to practice amphibious landings on such a large and dynamic exercise that involves so many moving parts.
“My personal highlight has been conducting aviation assaults using the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopters.
“As the UK’s experts in amphibious warfare, it’s great to be able to practice what we do best and showcase what the Royal Marines are capable of.
“45 Commando Group are held at a moment’s notice to deploy anywhere in the world.
“As the lead Commando group for the UK, it’s important that we train hard in difficult conditions to remain at the top of our game”.
The deployment spans an area that encompasses the Western Baltic (around Denmark) all the way through to the Baltic states in the east of the Baltic Sea.
Arbroath’s 45 Commando are currently deployed on Royal Fleet Auxiliary amphibious assault landing ship RFA Lyme Bay.
Other UK ships involved include HMS Albion, HMS Kent, RFA Argus and MV Hurst Point. HMS Westminster and RFA Wave Knight are also participating alongside three fast patrol boats from the 1st Power Boat Squadron plus HMS Ramsey.
Although, the majority of the task force is predominately members of the naval service, including the Royal Marines, the UK also has a large Army contingent and numerous RAF personnel from Aviation Task Force 2.
Personnel from 45 Commando’s Logs Company are also giving leadership training to Latvian forces.
Royal Marine ranks are running training to help develop Latvian forces for their Junior Command Course (promotion from junior ranks to corporal).
The exercise, which began in late May, runs until early July.