Nearly 2,000 UK Armed Forces personnel will deploy to the Baltic Sea for a series of multinational exercises in support of European security.
Sailors and marines from all nations of the UK-led high-readiness Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) will take part in the deployment, due to take place in May, which will underline the importance of protecting Europe at a time of increased threat.
This week, Defence Ministers and representatives from JEF countries will come together at the Ministry of Defence to discuss the deployment and test the mechanisms for mobilising the JEF, laying the foundation for the start of Baltic Protector.
A total of 3,000 military personnel from all JEF nations will be involved in the Baltic Protector deployment, which draws in around 20 naval vessels, including a number of Royal Navy ships. They will test themselves with maritime tactical exercises, amphibious drills, amphibious raiding practice, shore landings and naval manoeuvres. This is the first ever JEF maritime deployment of this scale, and demonstrates its ability to provide reassurance in the region.
The joint force, now fully operational, is spearheaded by the UK and includes eight other likeminded nations – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The JEF builds on many years of experience between the UK and these countries.
At full strength, the joint force has the capability to mobilise over 10,000 personnel in support of a variety of missions to deliver rapid and far-reaching effect. And while Baltic Protector is maritime-focused, personnel from the British Army and Royal Air Force will also take part.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
As Britain prepares to leave the EU, our unwavering commitment to European security and stability is more important than ever.
Deploying our world class sailors and marines to the Baltic Sea, alongside our international allies, firmly underlines Britain’s leading role in Europe.
Baltic Protector, the first deployment of the JEF Maritime Task Group, will be made up of three major exercises and is aimed at integrating UK and partner nations to test their ability to operate together.
JEF personnel and ships will also work alongside NATO allies during the deployment, further underlining the versatility of the joint force, and the commitment to supporting European security.
Commodore James Parkin, Commander of the Task Group, said:
It is a huge privilege to command the Baltic Protector deployment, and I am greatly looking forward to working with our close friends and partners from the other eight Joint Expeditionary Force partner nations.
Together, this UK-led Maritime Task Group will conduct a series of demanding amphibious exercises and maritime security patrols across the Baltic Sea that will serve to improve the way we operate together and our readiness to respond to crisis.
The JEF, which was established at the 2014 NATO Summit and launched a year later, became fully operational with the signing of a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding in June 2018.
As an adaptable high-readiness force that can be stood up anywhere, at any time and in any environment, the JEF can cover a range of tasks, including combat operations, deterrence, or humanitarian support. The JEF has the ability to operate independently or in support of multinational organisations, including NATO, UN, EU and Northern Group.
The joint force is a clear example of collective strength between partner nations, and this joint working has been seen previously. This has included during the Ebola outbreak – as part of the response, the UK, the Netherlands and Norway combined resources on land, at sea and in the air. This demonstrates the kind of integrated mission the JEF could be mobilised to support.