Wattisham-based Apache helicopters deployed to Estonia
PUBLISHED: 14:24 15 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:51 15 April 2019
Apache attack helicopters based in Suffolk have been sent to the Baltic on a three month deployment in Estonia.
They took off from Wattisham airfield watched by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and will form part of Nato's enhanced forward presence (eFP) in the region to deter potential aggression from the Kremlin.
Mr Williamson, speaking at the airfield, said: “It's a very credible threat that we see from Russia and part of the reason that we're deploying five Apache attack helicopters is making sure that we're constantly adapting to a changing situation, but this is about deterrents.
“This is about Nato nations standing together in unity as one and you see Great Britain playing the largest role in enhanced forward presence with the largest number of service personnel deployed.
“The enhancement of that deployment with the Apache attack helicopters is really vital and very, very important and it's been very warmly welcomed by so many nations.”
A further 110 UK personnel have been deployed to the Baltics as part of Operation CABRIT, taking the total there to around 1,000 UK personnel.
Major David Lambert, commanding officer of 663 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps which is based at Wattisham, said the Apaches would take part in training exercises across the Baltic states while deployed to Estonia.
One, called Exercise Iron Wolf and being held in Lithuania, will involve up to 14 nations.
“Whenever you go somewhere new, there's always things that you learn about how to operate,” said Maj Lambert.
“Your fieldcraft needs to change and in the UK we train very much in rolling countryside, it favours us in what we do.
“Actually putting ourselves in a really flat area in close proximity to the Russian border brings some new, complex challenges that we need to look at. I'm really excited by the whole prospect.”
The ePF was set up in 2016 following Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The eFP is a deployment of defensive but combat-capable forces in countries which include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
There are four multinational battlegroups across the region - led by Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States - aimed at deterring Russian aggression.