Estonian Special Forces deploying to Mali will be loaned four Jackal armoured vehicles by the UK Ministry of Defence. The loan will equip Estonian troops as they join the international fight against Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa, a further example of the UK’s strong partnership with one of its closest NATO allies. Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey confirmed the loan, plus a three-week training package, for elite soldiers of the Estonian Armed Forces. Following three years of close collaboration between the UK and Estonian Armed Forces (EDF) on NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence, this loan points to the strength of the two nations’ militaries’ shared objectives and ability to work together.
The Jackals will help the Estonians navigate unpredictable terrain in the Sahel, where their presence will add to the UK’s impact on the international effort to fight the illegal migration routes into Europe, and terrorist groups that operate in the region. With the Jackal 2 the Estonian Armed Forces will be equipped with a proven, battle winning vehicle as they join the international effort to tackle terrorism. British Army experts will this week finish providing drivers and crew from the EDF with a three-week training course on operating the Jackal 2 at Robertson Barracks in Norfolk.
The UK is loaning the Jackal 2 vehicles to the EDF while they await the delivery of their Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles. The Jackals will be loaned until March 2021 or earlier if the Coyotes are delivered before then. Boasting a unique air-bag suspension system allowing rapid movement across the roughest terrain, the Jackal has been extensively used by British forces in Afghanistan. Designated as a “high mobility weapons system”, it is designed to protect personnel against roadside explosions and mine attacks but also has an “open” crew compartment and a gun-ring with 360-degree sweep for excellent observation and agility. It can also carry either a heavy machine gun or a grenade machine gun as the main weapons system.
The UK and Estonia have forged a tight-knit defence relationship in recent years, with the UK having led a multinational battlegroup in the country as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) since 2017. NATO’s eFP in the Baltic States aims to enhance Euro-Atlantic security, with over 800 British troops deployed in Estonia build understanding and share expertise with their local EDF counterparts on a daily basis with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers currently providing the bulk of the combat capable force. Further collaboration between the two countries has seen RAF Typhoons deploy to Estonia for NATO Air Policing in 2016 and 2019, when the jets conducted 21 interceptions of 56 Russian aircraft.