Some 250 British paratroops jumped into southern Ukraine last week, according to an MoD release on 19 September, marking a first in their history.
The soldiers, from 16 Air Assault Brigade, dropped direct into the Ternivsky training area, where they teamed up with thousands of Ukrainian troops ahead of Exercise Joint Endeavour, which commences on 22 September. Alongside 200 troops from the Ukraine Airborne Forces, the British troops parachuted in from 600ft from C-130 HERCULES transport aircraft which had flown directly from RAF Brize Norton. In addition to soldiers from the Parachute Regiment, the force consists of personnel from the Royal Engineers, Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Signals, Royal Logistic Corps and The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
Building on the strong relationship developed between the two nations’ armed forces in recent years, the exercise provides both nations with vital experience of deploying rapidly from air to land to counter threats. “Our participation is an important affirmation of our commitment to our defence relationship with Ukraine, our partners in the Black Sea, and our ability to project highly capable troops forward anywhere, and any time, they’re needed,” stated Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey.
“We all bring something to this exercise. The Ukrainians bring their resolve and courage and we bring our constantly changing tactics and processes. Our shared values and the airborne nature of our units brings us closer together. This is a welcomed opportunity and the hot weather just makes us realise that we are able to cope easily in all environments,” observed Capt Harjot Singh Gill of 16 Air Assault Brigade.
Exercise Joint Endeavour, which will total up to 8,000 personnel and also feature a small number of troops from the USA and Canada, is the first multinational exercise in Ukraine since the country achieved NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner status in June. As such, Ukraine will gain further experience working closely with NATO militaries, sharing best practice and matching capabilities.
The UK and Ukraine have built a strong defence relationship in recent years, with British troops having trained over 18,000 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine since the commencement of Operation Orbital, the UK’s dedicated training mission to Ukraine. Established in 2015 following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia a year earlier, the operation has demonstrated the UK’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last month stepped up British support to Ukraine even further, announcing that the UK would lead a multi-national Maritime Training Initiative for the Ukrainian Navy. Courses will be delivered by the Royal Navy and naval personnel from Sweden, Canada and Denmark in a range of areas.