SAAB Gripen, F-16 Fighters Conduct Patrols With JEF Partners; UK-Led Forces In Estonia Get Resupplied By NATO Ships

NATO ships have delivered military vehicles and equipment to Estonia to support the UK-led battlegroup in the country, the British Defense Ministry informed.

“Royal Navy vessels have joined ships, aircraft and personnel from six Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) nations to provide support to NATO and bolster security in the Baltic Sea,” the ministry said in a Monday statement.

According to the release, HMS Northumberland and HMS Richmond have joined Danish frigate HDMS Niels Juel and warships from Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

“JEF naval vessels escorted Danish and British supply ships as they delivered military vehicles and equipment to resupply the UK-led NATO Battlegroup in Estonia, where troops from the UK and Denmark are serving side by side,” the British defense ministry said.

In addition to delivering supplies, NATO warships conducted a series of joint exercises.

“Given the current level of aggression being displayed by Russia, there has never been a more important time to ensure that freedom of navigation is maintained in the Baltic Sea,” Maj. Gen. Jim Morris DSO, the Commander of the UK Standing Joint Force HQ (SJFHQ) which leads the JEF, said as quoted in the defense ministry’s release.

Danish F-16
A Danish F-16 escorted an American B1 bomber across Danish air space on their way to perform exercises in the Baltics. (NATO image)

As well as patrolling and delivering the vital supplies, the warships and aircraft conducted a series of joint exercises to demonstrate and hone their seamless interoperability. Danish F-16s and Swedish Gripen jets practiced air defense tactics with the vessels, while one of the UK’s new RAF Poseidon P8A submarine hunter aircraft rehearsed working with the ships to spot enemy vessels.

The United Kingdom has doubled the number of troops in Estonia since the launch of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The JEF (Joint Expeditionary Force) is a UK-led force, comprising 10 nations working together to deliver forces at high readiness, across a range of roles, complementing NATO and European security. The coalition focuses on security in the Baltic Sea region, the High North and the North Atlantic, where its members are located.

In March, the Prime Minister hosted JEF leaders in London for the first-ever leader-level summit. At the leaders’ summit, JEF members committed to supporting Ukraine with defensive military aid and ensuring that JEF continued to play a credible role in contributing to defense and deterrence in the region. The meeting followed meetings of Defence Ministers and Chiefs of Defence in February.

File Image: Gripen Jets

The coalition is complementary to NATO’s wider strategic posture which originated from the 2014 NATO summit in Wales. Led by the UK as a framework nation, it is agile and responsive, acting flexibly either in smaller groupings or as ten nations communicating with one voice.

Rear Admiral Torben Mikkelson, Chief of the Royal Danish Navy, said: “The current situation calls for increased focus on the security of the Baltic Sea and stability of our region. The Danish Navy will, with our partners in the JEF alliance, do our utmost to contribute to that.”

A busy schedule of activity over the coming months and years will see the JEF operating across its core areas of the North Atlantic, High North and Baltic Sea Region, with a particular focus on the upcoming Command Post Exercise Joint Protector later in 2022, followed by the Live Exercise JEF Warrior in 2023.