Hundreds of British soldiers have landed in southern Ukraine to participate in the first multinational military exercise in the country since it received NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner status.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed that 250 soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade dropped into the Ternivsky training field in southern Ukraine, joining thousands of Ukrainian troops ahead of Exercise Joint Endeavour, which commences on 22 September.
The troops parachuted into Ukraine from 600 feet from C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which flew directly from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The UK force is made up of personnel from the Royal Engineers, Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Signals, the Parachute Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
Exercise Joint Endeavour — which will involve up to 8,000 personnel, including a small contingent of troops from the US and Canada — has been designed to provide participants with “vital experience” of rapid deployment from air to land to “counter threats”.
The operation is the first multinational exercise in Ukraine since the country was awarded NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner status in June.
Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said the exercise would help solidify the UK’s defence relationship with Ukraine.
“Deploying directly to Ukraine from the UK, the Paras were straight into the action on Exercise Joint Endeavour,” Minister Heappey said.
“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.”
Captain Harjot Singh Gill of the 16 Air Assault Brigade added that each of the participants would bring unique capabilities to the exercise.
“The Ukrainians bring their resolve and courage and we bring our constantly changing tactics and processes,” he said.
“Our shared values and the airborne nature of our units brings us closer together. This a welcomed opportunity and the hot weather just makes us realise that we are able to cope easily in all environments.”
This latest exercise builds on work between the UK and Ukrainian militaries over recent years, with British troops training over 18,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the five years since the commencement of the UK’s training mission, Operation Orbital.
Operation Orbital was established in 2015 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea a year earlier, and aims to serve as a demonstration of the UK’s support for Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also recently announced that the UK would lead a multinational maritime training initiative for the Ukrainian Navy, delivered by the Royal Navy with support from Swedish, Canadian, and Danish personnel.