Up to 1,000 British troops are being deployed to Poland for two major Nato exercises. Exercise Anakonda 2016 will involve up to 800 British troops and is a Polish-led exercise designed to conduct multinational training with NATO and partner nations. It will be conducted in the Ustka and Drawsko Pomorski Training Area, Poland.
Another 150 troops will participate in Exercise Swift Response 2016 which is a NATO training exercise built around conducting NATO airborne forces operations across four European nations. Swift Response is designed to demonstrate the alliance’s ability to operate from intermediate staging bases in Europe as well as conduct simultaneous airborne forcible entry and follow-on missions.
The Royal Navy will also increase their presence in the Baltic during 2016 with planned visits to Polish ports by the frigate HMS Iron Duke and the Royal Navy flagship, the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean (right). A third, undisclosed vessel, will also visit the country later in the year.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon is due to confirm the deployments following talks with his Polish counterpart Antoni Macierewicz. The Russian press have been quick to fire up the conspiracy theories however with the RT news channel hinting that the deployment comes amid Polish fears of Russian intentions in the region. The MoD’s official stance remains that the deployment is purely for training purposes.
The British Army has deployed its Lead Armoured Battle Group to the plains of North East Poland to participate in Exercise Dragon 15. The exercises are taking place just 60 miles from the border with the Russian state of Kaliningrad Oblast. The armoured force will join up to 6,000 Poles, Germans and Canadians on the seven week training exercise which aims to improve the way the allies work together.
On the dusty Orzysz weapon range, dignitaries from the host and visitor countries were treated to a spectacular display of firepower with armoured vehicles from the UK, Poland and Germany firing shells at targets in a mock battle sequence for their benefit while British troops demonstrated the firing of two Javelin anti-tank missiles. The Polish media provided extensive news coverage of the display no doubt as a warning for Russia that the country is now better protected than Ukraine was last year.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Garner, Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, said:
I think our proximity to the Russian border will be noticed, but I think the exercise is really all about exercising closely with our Nato allies and the assurance that that brings, especially to our Polish allies – obviously for them, the threat is very real and credible…I think it shows the UK is committed to NATO.
The British Army have deployed around 350 British Army vehicles 135 of which are Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs). The exercise is being carried out in the wake of British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s statement that Britain is to station around 100 troops in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in an advisory capacity as a response to the heightened tension with Russia following Russian air strikes commencing in Syria.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has revealed that a number of British troops will be stationed in the Baltic states (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia) as part of a wider mission to deter further Russian aggression in the region. Fallon made the announcement during a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels stating the deployment was intended to reassure former Eastern Bloc members that the NATO alliance will stand by them.
This is further reassurance for our allies on the eastern flank of NATO – for the Baltic states and for Poland.
Fallon outlined that the NATO mission including British troops will primarily revolve around evaluating the current strategic situation and provide training and support to the former Eastern Bloc countries in order to improve their defensive stance. The move is certain to attract criticism in the wake of heightened tension between the Western powers and Moscow following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch airstrikes in Syria which sources in Washington and London have claimed are aimed at supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government rather than defeating Islamic State (IS) as Moscow have claimed.
More than 1300 British soldiers and 100 armoured vehicles, including Challenger 2 MBTs and Warrior IFVs, from the 3rd UK Division participated in Exercise BLACK EAGLE, a British/Polish NATO exercise held in Western Poland towards the end of November.
Soldiers from Tidworth-based The King’s Royal Hussars (KRH), the UK’s Lead Armoured Battlegroup operating Challenger 2, carried out live-firing battlefield exercises in conjunction with their Polish counterparts equipped with the German made Leopard MBTs, whilst 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (1R Welsh), with the Warrior, provided troops on the ground.
A significant demonstration of the UK’s support to the region and NATO’s Immediate Assurance Measures, Ex BLACK EAGLE highlighted the British Army’s ability to deploy an armoured battlegroup at short notice anywhere in the world in support of the nation’s allies. The exercise raised several questions amongst analysts. The UK agreed to participate in the exercise in July and some have asked if the exercise was to make a point to Russia over the Crimea crisis – something flatly denied by the British Army and the UK government.