Fires Shock field artillery exercises kick off in Estonia

U.S. Army Europe and Africa will conduct a series of field artillery exercises called Fires Shock in Europe and Africa from May 5 – June 19. Fires Shock will showcase the modernization of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s rapidly deployable long-range precision fires capabilities utilizing Multi-Domain Task Force capabilities in support of NATO and the National Defense Strategy in a dynamic security environment. 

Defender 21 started in Tapa Central Training Area, Estonia with Fires Shock, a series of field artillery exercises happening between May 5th and June 19th in Europa and Africa. The Estonian faze will demonstrate the rapid deployment of the M270 Multiple Launch Systems, a long-range precision fire system.

As part of the Swift Response 21 exercise, the 24 hours Estonian leg will have the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division load up on aircraft at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and jump out into the night to link up with the Estonian.  On the ground, they’ll meet a determined opposing force played by U.S. and allied forces.

On the larger scale of Swift Response, the Europe-based paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade will also jump this week from a staging base in Papa, Hungary, into Bulgaria, where they’ll then conduct raids and other missions with helicopters from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.  In total, there are over 7,000 soldiers from 11 countries taking part in Swift Response.

On an even larger scale, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, along with their partners, has already started DEFENDER-Europe 21. Similar to the previous year, this year’s exercise is the overarching exercise that gets all the pieces moving, from paratroopers to equipment from the Continental United States as well as allies countries and partners here in Europe.  Over 1,300 pieces of equipment loaded on boats in March and arrived at ports in Albania, Croatia, Germany, and Greece. This year’s DEFENDER-Europe involves over 30,000 participants from 25 countries conducting a series of associated exercises that take place in training areas in 13 countries. 

“DEFENDER essentially sets the theater and exercises our ability to conduct military movement across Europe, both as the U.S. Army and with our NATO Allies and partners. We’ve demonstrated over the last 15 months that we can continue to exercise and train during this pandemic by implementing measures to protect our soldiers and host communities, and we’ll continue that throughout this summer,” said Brigadier General Chris Norrie, the Commander of 7th Army Training Command.

“So then, what is Fires Shock?  As we look across these and other exercises this summer, we saw an opportunity to exercise and showcase the modernization of our artillery capabilities within U.S. Army Europe and Africa in support of our NATO Allies and aligned with our National Defense Strategy.  The Army’s number one modernization priority is long-range precision fires, and that will be on full display here in Estonia.  Starting tonight in Estonia, the 41st Field Artillery Brigade will demonstrate our ability to provide rapid, scalable, precision-strike long-range artillery anywhere in Europe and Africa.  In the next month they’ll go straight from Estonia into a tactical artillery interoperability exercise alongside 13 other nations back at Grafenwoehr for artillery live fires during exercise Dynamic Front”, added Brigadier General Chris Norrie, the Commander of 7th Army Training Command, during a press briefing before the start of the Fires Shock.   

The Estonian Fires Shock is based on the premise that to win any conflict, you will inevitably have to occupy terrain with ground forces. Getting them there on the modern battlefield with so many weapons that provide standoff means you’ve got to integrate joint fires from the strategic and operational level. That you will give those paratroopers every opportunity to arrive to jump, fight, and win.  This long-range fires enterprise is an example of U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s credible land deterrence in support of the U.S. European Command. 

Speaking on the Estonian part, Major General Indrek Sirel, the Deputy Chief of Defence in the Estonian Defence Forces, and the director of the Estonian Swift Response, said that “is just one of many exercises where we, the Estonian Defence Forces, train to defend our country, and doing that one shoulder by shoulder with our Allies. The airdrops that Brigadier General Norrie just mentioned will have not just paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division but as well paratroopers from the 16th U.K. Air Assault Brigade. I will underline that in the next few days, a significant number of Estonian infantrymen, airmen, special forces operators, reservists, and conscripts are actively involved in Swift Response.”

Also present at the press briefing Colonel Daniel Miller, Commander of the 41st Field Artillery Brigade. 41st Field Artillery Brigade is the U.S. Army’s only organic, long-range, precision strike multiple launcher rocket system unit forward stationed in Europe. The unit is the action arm of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s Fires Shock campaign of exercises to demonstrate long range precision fires capability through the conduct of interoperability-focused, tactical-level exercises and live fire events.

“Tonight’s live fire exercise in support of Swift Response is a tremendous opportunity to coordinate and work with joint special forces teams from the U.S. and Estonia, firing alongside our U.K. artillery group that is part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle group here to set the conditions for 82nd Airborne’s follow-on joint forcible entry operation. It’s a very tremendous amount of artillery.  Cooperation and interoperability being demonstrated here with precision, timeliness, and considerable effect.  We are very excited to be doing it,” said Colonel Miller.   

After completing this exercise, they will return to their home station of Grafenwoehr, Germany, and continue on with Dynamic Front and then the succession of follow-on exercises as part of Fires Shock. In the last six months, the 41st Fires Brigade has conducted no-notice exercises to deploy via U.S. Special Operations Command Europe aircraft, land in Romania to fire rockets into the Black Sea, and then roll right back onto the aircraft and they’re home by nightfall. They’re going to demonstrate that ability again during Fires Shock at exercise Saber Guardian in Bulgaria this month, and again on the African continent in June as part of exercise African Lion.  In the same timeframe, 41st will also deploy elements to Norway to conduct an MLRS live fire in a bilateral exercise called Thunderbolt. 

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