Alongside CH-47F Chinooks and UH-60 Blackhawks from the United States and NH90s from Finland, the helicopters conducted mixed formation training to enable multi-aircraft aviation support to the Heli-borne Assault Force.
VIGILANT FOX was a four-day validation exercise for C Company, 2 RIFLES, Finnish Karelian Brigade and the Jaeger Guard Regiment. For UK Chinooks, the exercise preparation began with 3 days of joint ground training interspersed with 2, 3 and 4-ship sorties. Flying in tri-lateral mixed formation at low level and into confined areas brought the aviation units to the same standard and reinforced existing procedures.
Aviation support was supplied by a joint package of 2x UK CH-47, 2x US UH-60 and 1x FIN NH90. RAF aircrew planners forward based to Finland and worked with their counterparts to ensure well-integrated and successful training took place, whilst discussing their operating capabilities and differences.
The Heli-borne Assault Force insertion of British Army troops of C Coy into the training area at Niinisalo, Western Finland was the main effort of the first day of the Ex. The Finnish and British units were tested by opposition forces presented by the Finnish Pori Brigade with an attached US Cavalry troop.
Throughout the rest of the week, the crews participated in staging operations, aviation assaults and defensive support missions which included rapid planning and integration within an evolving tactical ground scenario. Observations and improvements in procedures and tactical manoeuvres was shared between nations in comprehensive briefing and debriefing.
The Finnish Army and US Army aviators we worked with were top class. After a couple of briefs, it was just like working with another familiar, they just use different equipment. Carrying out complicated tactical training far away from home in mixed formations is a formidable demonstration of capability. We now know that US, Finnish and UK support helicopters can work seamlessly together whenever the need arises.
Flight Lieutenant Henry
RAF Chinooks arrived in Estonia in early July as part of Aviation Task Force 3, taking over from a Puma detachment, which had been based in Lithuania for 6 weeks. The presence of the Aviation Task Force in the Baltic region integrates UK support helicopter with NATO Allies and Partners’ exercises over the summer training period.
Tapa is the base location of the British Army-led enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Estonia, whose personnel are currently from 2 RIFLES. They are integrated with Estonian, Danish and French troops to add their complementary capabilities into a capable, multi-skilled unit.