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Royal Marines storm Estonian beach during dusk raid on major NATO exercise

22 May 2023
Royal Marines carried out a dusk raid on a Baltic beach during a major exercise to reinforce the UK-led NATO battlegroup in Estonia.

X-Ray Company from Arbroath-based 45 Commando were dispatched from Royal Navy amphibious flagship HMS Albion, which is a month into leading a task group (Littoral Response Group North) in the Baltic Sea.

The commandos came ashore on the beach at Kaberneeme, on the north coast of Estonia – about a 40-minute drive from capital Tallinn – as the last glimmer of light disappeared on the horizon, manoeuvring in small raiding craft across the calm seas dimly lit by the setting sun’s amber glow.

The beach raid scenario saw 45 Commando facing off against Estonia’s Armed Forces, with an Estonian naval missile unit acting as the commandos’ ‘adversary’.

It was a valuable opportunity for the commandos, swiftly infiltrating hostile territory to secure information, confuse the enemy and strike a high value target.

Commanding Officer of HMS Albion, Captain Marcus Hember, said: “This exercise has been a great proving ground in demonstrating the flexibility of amphibious ships like HMS Albion, enabling fast and lethal strikes by our embedded Royal Marines in 45 Commando whilst seamlessly supported by the ship and its crew.

“We’ve demonstrated our ability to exercise with our regional partners adding significant capability and shown we can ‘turn up when needed’.”

Officer Commanding X-Ray Company, Royal Marines, Major Lee Stewart, added: “The support of the crew from HMS Albion is critical to land operations, the integrated approach with both Royal Navy and Royal Marines working as a team make amphibious warfare so effective."

Two RAF Typhoon fighter jets were on station to provide close air support, information, surveillance and reconnaissance during the exercise – enabling invaluable integrated training between land, sea and air.

Aviators of IX (Bomber) Squadron and their Typhoons are currently stationed at Ämari Air Base, having flown NATO air policing missions recently with German Allies – resulting in several intercepts of Russian aircraft transiting close to Estonian airspace.

More than 1,500 UK troops are currently deployed for Spring Storm, Estonia’s largest annual military exercise, which includes 14,000 troops from 11 NATO countries.

The exercise comes on the back of recent combined Royal and Estonian Navy-RAF training off Tallinn which saw the host nation call up Typhoons to ‘attack’ HMS Mersey as a test of seamless cooperation.

The UK retains a continuous deployment in Estonia as part of its NATO commitment, known as the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).

At last year’s NATO summit, the UK committed to increase the size of its eFP commitment, with this year’s exercise marking the first time the UK has conducted a brigade-sized deployment to Estonia – involving hundreds more personnel than in previous deployments.

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