Around 150 British Army and Royal Air Force personnel have deployed to Finland alongside US and Finnish armed forces for Exercise VIGILANT FOX. The deployment follows the UK’s joint security declaration with Finland signed in May. More than 750 troops from the UK, USA and Finland gathered this week in Niinisalo, western Finland, to participate in the four-day high-readiness exercise. Partner nations practised interoperability between air and land forces ahead of Finland’s accession to NATO. This type of international training is critical in preparing allies to operate alongside one another should NATO need to deploy in the future.
Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey MP said: “Exercise VIGILANT FOX has demonstrated the strength and interoperability of our Armed Forces with our US and Finnish allies and reaffirms our commitment to the defence and security of the Baltic Sea region.”
Wing Commander Stephen Boyle, Defence Attaché, British Embassy Finland, said: “Our soldiers, sailors and aviators have received a warm welcome in Finland over the last few months.? Exercise VIGILANT FOX is the latest activity in an ongoing series of events across the domains.”
British troops based in Estonia as part of Project UNIFIED STANCE swooped into Finland in Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters. The troops from C Company, 2 Rifles Battlegroup, were inserted into Niinisalo to join Finland’s high readiness forces from the Jaeger, Karelia and Pori Brigades. The exercise also included soldiers, armoured fighting vehicles and helicopters from the US 3rd Armoured Brigade Combat Team (The Iron Brigade). This exercise comes just two weeks after RAF fighter aircraft deployed to Finland and Sweden for joint training.
Units from all three nations undertook a series of demanding training events, conducting offensive and defensive operations including helicopter assaults, covert landings and short-notice raids using American Black Hawks, Finnish NH-90s and UK Chinooks. Such training improves integration between air and land forces, as well as interoperability between partner nations, and is crucial to ensuring that NATO forces can work together effectively on operations and in war. As well as air-land integration, the exercise focused on developing command and control procedures and tactical drills using a combination of live and blank firing drills and urban operations.