On March 17, French and British Army armoured vehicles, including 12 Leclerc main battle tanks, and other military equipment arrived at the port of Paldiski to support the U.K.-led NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP Battlegroup). The ship’s load, which covered more than two thousand nautical miles between the ports of La Rochelle (France) and Paldiski (Estonia), included 12 of the iconic French Leclerc tanks as well as a range of armoured vehicles such as the 8-wheeled Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infanterie (VCBI). There were also large transporter vehicles, recovery vehicles, trucks, trailers, and fuel tanks.
“The arrival of French troops and the rotation of UK unit gives us an opportunity to train reception procedures and to develop cross-nation cooperation. It is great that our allies have decided to use different modes of transportation to deploy to Estonia – using air, sea and land. This provides us with a chance to test our interoperability in different transportation hubs and proves vividly, that moving allied units to Estonia is not hindered by the pandemic,” stated MAJ Lauri Kiviloo, the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Support Command’s Movement and Transportation Service.
“There are many challenges from organising the use of a civilian port, unloading a vessel this size in a good time and using certain routes to the likes of Tapa with escort vehicles. The UK, Estonia and France have different regulations and policies for doing this, but We work together to get the best solutions to ensure vehicles and equipment come off the ship, onto the port side and to their destination.” said LT Jon Caulder from the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup.
The UK consignment on board included armoured vehicles such as Warrior and Bulldog, field guns and 4×4 all-terrain vehicles. Both these and the French vehicles and equipment were off-loaded by a team of UK and Estonian movers.The UK vehicles and equipment will be used by the 1 MERCIAN Battlegroup which is arriving in Estonia later this month for a six-month deployment and seamlessly taking over from the 5 RIFLES Battlegroup as lead element of the NATO Battlegroup based in Tapa. A French contingent of nearly 300 personnel, which started arriving in Estonia earlier this month, will use its vehicle and equipment during a year-long deployment. The French, who have already completed two eight-month missions in Estonia in 2017 and 2019, will be integrated into the UK-led Battlegroup during one year this time which forms part of the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade.