Home World British paratroopers lead NATO drills in show of force against Vladimir Putin

British paratroopers lead NATO drills in show of force against Vladimir Putin


Scores of British and American soldiers parachuted from a warplane in Estonia on Saturday as part of the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War.

More than 140 paratroopers dropped 1,000ft from the US Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster to a site just over an hour from the Russian border as tensions between the hostile nation and alliance soar.

Thomas Keld, Section Commander in 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, told the Sunday Express it felt like “being in a little car crash” moments before falling from the plane.

“It’s quite violent because you’re connected to the plane,” he said.

“So it’s like being in a little car crash, you get moved about quite a bit.

“There’s certain bits of string that snap under a certain tension so it’s pretty rough.

“But as long as you’re doing the drills properly you won’t get hurt.”

The 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army’s global response force, is currently leading a force of more than 2,300 soldiers, sailors and aviators from four countries working together in Estonia for the Swift Response exercise.

The force is made up of paratroopers and backed by nine Apache attack, four Wildcat reconnaissance and three Chinook support helicopters.

They are trained to deploy behind enemy lines by parachute, helicopter and airlanding before seizing footholds against enemy forces.

The unit falls under ‘very high readiness’ which means they can deploy to anywhere in the world within five days.

“Parachuting allows us to project force very rapidly, so it’s as relevant today as it ever has been and particularly relevant in the context of a Russian invasion,” Brigadier Mark Berry, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team said.

Some 82 brave Britons took part in the jump yesterday in Nurmsi alongside 60 US allies.

Section Commander Keld, 35, added: “The build-up is the worst. Going through the hours of planning, putting on the kit, getting checked and getting on the plane.

“The best part is when the doors open, you get hooked up and the lights come on – it’s showtime.”

Another soldier stressed the importance of staying focused during the drop.

“[The ground] is coming faster than you think, you’ve got to remember to stay tight,” Ryan Shaves, 7th paramilitary royal horse artillery, told the Sunday Express.

“You have this washing machine effect when you first exit the aircraft. Just shut your eyes and imagine being inside a washing machine, that’s your first half a second when you exit the aircraft.

“And then everything just goes completely silent.

“Then you’re looking around, seeing who you’re closest to and then just trying to get the best landing you can possibly get.

“It’s going to hurt for a second but so long as you stay tight and then roll with it then you shouldn’t really have any issues.”

The Russian threat casts a dark shadow as NATO allies take part in the live battlefield simulation.

Brigadier Giles Harris, who is based in Estonia with British forces, said: “I think the sense of purpose probably changed in the soldiers’ minds.

“The sense of strategic purpose and the context in which we’re doing this training has definitely changed.

“The fact that we’re so close to Russia brings it home.”

The war games in Estonia are part of Steadfast Defender 24, NATO’s largest military exercise in a generation, which has seen about 90,000 troops mobilised from all 32 alliance members over the past few months.

The latest show of force comes just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin, 71, accused the “arrogant” West of risking a global conflict.

In a bombastic speech in Moscow’s Red Square to mark the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II, the despot warned the nuclear power’s “strategic forces” were combat-ready.

Against a backdrop of explosions and gunfire in Estonia, Major Matt Hazlett, Officer Commanding C (Ranger) Company, seemed unfazed.

“The Russians will have to think twice about fighting the Royal Irish Regiment,” he said.

“They’ll be more scared than we are.”

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