The soldiers of the United Kingdom, France, and Denmark raised the national flags during the line-up at Tapa army base today, to mark the start of the service of the NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence battalion battle group in Estonia.
The Estonian Minister of Defence Mr. Margus Tsahkna said in his speech during at the ceremony that Allies’ battle group arrival is the clear assurance that Estonia does not has to stand against the threats alone any more.
“Today’s ceremony symbolises NATO’s resolve and unity. Our Allies’ troops standing here is a powerful signal, that when we say “All for one, one for all”, we mean that. The free world is united, and the values and principles we’re here to defend, are eternal. We know we can count on allies and allies know that they can always count on us. By standing together, we’re strong,” said Tsahkna.
After the ceremony the Estonian Minister of Defence Mr. Margus Tsahkna, Secretary of State for Defence of the UK Sir Michael Fallon, Minister of Defence of Denmark Claus Hjort Frederiksen, and the Ambassador of France to Estonia Mrs. Claudia Delmas-Scherer, signed a declaration about the establishment of an enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia. By the declaration, the NATO battalion battle group will operate in concert with the Estonian Defence Forces as a defensive, but combat capable force.
About 1,200 troops from the UK, France, Denmark, and Estonia participated in the flag-raising ceremony. Also present were the President of Estonia Mrs. Kersti Kaljulaid, the chairman of Riigikogu Mr. Eiki Nestor, the Prime Minister Mr. Jüri Ratas, the Chief of Defence Gen. Riho Terras, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. James Everard, and the Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Gen. Salvatore Farina.
At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, 28 leaders of NATO Member Nations decided to establish an enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland due to changed security situation. NATO’s battalion battle group in Estonia strengthens the deterrence and collective defence, and also reinforces Estonian self-defence capability.
1200-strong NATO’s battalion battle group is a part of the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade, stationed in Tapa. The framework nation UK is contributing more than 800 troops, armed with the Challenger 2 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles Warrior, and self-propelled howitzers AS90. France is contributing 300 troops armed with the Leclerc tanks, infantry fighting vehicles VBCI, and armoured vehicles VAB. The French unit will serve in Tapa for eight months, after that it’ll be rotated by the Danish unit.
Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna said at the rafter party celebrating the expansion of the Tapa base that Estonia is able, if necessary, to quickly organise the hosting of allies and the cooperation required between various agencies.
“The development of the Tapa base is recognition that we are capable of quickly reacting and ensuring that allied units arriving in Estonia receive comprehensive support,” said Tsahkna. The Minister of Defence added that the barracks and infrastructure being completed offer Members of the Defence Forces of Estonia as well as our allies the most modern service and living conditions.
According to Tsahkna, the expansion of the base over the last decade has been one of the largest construction projects in the field of defence, which is comparable to the construction of Ämari Air Base in terms of its volume and complexity.
A total of 16 buildings have been completed at the Tapa base, with a combined 37,000 square metres of space. The buildings under construction include Estonia’s largest catering complex, three barracks, six storage and training halls, five covered areas, in addition to service buildings and structures, for example, a substation and car wash, as well as roads and squares. Each set of barracks has 300 beds and 30 workstations; the dining facility is able to provide catering for 3200 people per day.
Estonia’s newest barracks are equipped with modern solutions, in which all accommodation, training work and equipment are located in one building; they are also efficiently built and manageable. Solutions, contemporary utility systems, and the ability to care for corresponding equipment based on the standards of different countries have been thought out in the barracks and repair halls.
The buildings will, for the most part, be completed in August and September, with the final building having to be ready by October. In addition to the buildings under construction, a container city will be completed by April, for use by allied units, in which more than 100 headquarters, medical and support containers will be stored. By this autumn, the Tapa base will be home to a total of eight barracks, of which three are planned for Allied use.
The rafter party is a tradition in which the party who orders the works shows their satisfaction with the work performed so far by the builders and grants that the builder may complete the work. The rafter party organised at the Tapa base marked the construction work reaching a new stage. The Allies were represented at the rafter party by the commander of the contingent, Col. Giles Harris from the United Kingdom, with AS Nordecon management board member Erkki Suurorg, and Keit Paal, Chairman of the Management Board of Merko Ehitus Eesti, speaking on behalf of the builders.
Construction work will continue during 2018, when an additional two barracks, along with support structures for equipment maintenance and training, will be completed at Tapa.
As a result of the developments, the Tapa base, which is home to the 1st Infantry Brigade, is turning into an armoured manoeuvre capability development centre. The Scouts Battalion, comprised of professional servicemen, is in the process of moving to Tapa, and their armaments have begun to be updated with the modern infantry fighting vehicle CV90. Also present at Tapa are NATO battalion battle group units stationed in Estonia. Infrastructure that meets their needs must be created in order to support additional capabilities and units.
Photos of the rafter party