The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 24 May that 3,000 troops have joined with a total of 17 vessels from nine nations in contributing to the first major maritime training deployment of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) in Exercise Baltic Protector.
“From Denmark to Lithuania, from Sweden to Estonia, Baltic Protector will leave potential adversaries in no doubt of our collective resolve and ability to defend ourselves. This force is a key component of European security, a force of friends that complements existing structures and demonstrates that we are stronger together,” observed Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster.
Command of the group conducted by the Royal Navy’s HMS ALBION, joining forces with vessels and personnel from Denmark, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and the Netherlands for the start of integration training in the western Baltic and eastern North Sea – the first of three phases making up the deployment.
In June, the JEF will then demonstrate its ability not only to operate independently, but also to support existing multinational organisations, when the task group joins NATO allies on the US-led Exercise Baltops, taking place off Germany and Sweden.
The third and final phase of the deployment will see the task group link up with land forces in the eastern Baltic - including the UK-led battlegroup in Estonia, which makes up part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence – by conducting a series of shore landings and raids.
Established at the 2014 NATO Summit and launched a year later, the JEF became fully operational with the signing of a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding last year in London. 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 and humanitarian support. The joint force is a clear example of collective strength.
Such joint working has been seen previously – during the Ebola outbreak, for example: as part of the response, the UK, the Netherlands and Norway combined resources on land, at sea and in the air. This demonstrates the type of integrated mission the JEF could be mobilised to support.