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RAF Heavy Lift Aircraft Spearhead Major NATO Exercise

Royal Air Force heavy lift aircraft have delivered a Multiple Launch Rocket System to the British Army exercising in Estonia.

Multiple Launch Rocket System
Multiple Launch Rocket System

Exercise Swift Response also saw high and medium-level paratrooper drops as part of Steadfast Defender 24 – NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War. Additional air support was provided by RAF Chinooks, British Army Apaches and Wildcats, and NATO aircraft including those from the United States Air Force.

“The UK’s contribution to this major NATO exercise shows that we are taking a very real threat seriously through a necessary presence to deter Russia.”

This week the RAF have proved their versatility and ability to work closely with the Army alongside our allies in a battlefield scenario. I was delighted to fly in the Atlas myself and witness first-hand this extremely capable aircraft and highly professional crew who can switch between several roles in operations and exercises across the Globe.

I would like to emphasise that Estonia is a very safe country that is part of the EU and NATO, where I live with my family and one that people should not be deterred from visiting. It is a popular tourist destination and a good place to do business, which is why the reassurances that exercises such as Swift Response provide are important. The RAF and United Kingdom are committed to NATO who in turn is committed to Estonia’s defence and values in an international order based on rules and mutual respect.”

His Majesty’s Ambassador to Estonia, Mr Ross Allen

His Majesty's Ambassador to Estonia
His Majesty's Ambassador to Estonia meeting personnel

Proven movers of people and equipment, the Atlas crews were keen to test out a Rapid Air Land (RAL) where vital equipment can be rapidly moved across the battlefield. At an event at Kiltsi air strip several VIPs including the UK Ambassador and Estonian Defence Minister witnessed such a RAL in action when an Atlas deployed a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) overseas for the first time. A paratrooper drop of 16 Air Assault Brigade over the island of Saaremaar rounded off a successful week.

RAF Aircraft with paratroopers
Paratroopers of 16 Air Assault Brigade

Ex Swift Response is part of a wider NATO effort, Steadfast Defender 24, comprising 90,000 personnel in manoeuvres across Europe and the North Atlantic over several months. Steadfast Defender is the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War and will test the alliance’s ability to defend against a near-peer adversary.