French army starts NATO Bold Eagle exercise in Estonia

On April 3, 2021, the predominantly armored tactical combined arms sub-grouping (SGTIA, Sous-groupement tactique interarmes) of the Lynx 9 mission began Exercise Bold Eagle in the vicinity of Tapa, Estonia. In addition to the French SGTIA, this exercise mobilizes American, British and Estonian troops.
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French VBCIs in Bold Eagle taking place in Estonia (Picture source: Twitter account of the French MoD)

Lynx 9 is the first high-intensity combat training in a battalion-level combined framework. Three sequences of 72 hours are planned, including a platoon-level sequence, a company-level sequence and the last brigade-level sequence. These different training sequences are the ideal opportunity for the different nations to test the interoperability of their equipment and tactical procedures for defensive and offensive missions.

After a three-day preparatory phase of testing command procedures, the exercise is currently in a phase focused on battlegroup level training during which NATO soldiers train for combat missions, alternating between barrage, attack and defense phases. Exercise Bold Eagle is a preliminary step in preparation for Exercise Spring Storm, which will test the readiness of NATO forces for a fictitious crisis.

The French headquarters of the eFP battalion in Estonia (eFP BG Estonia - Battlegroup Estonia) is located in Tapa and the United Kingdom is its framework nation. The French detachment is one of the joint components of this multinational battalion.

The French detachment of the battalion has:
- an element inserted with a Senior National Representative (SNR), Colonel Démésy, acting as Head of Operations (S3) and officers dealing with the following areas: Intelligence (S2), Operations (S3), Logistics (S4) and Systems of Information and Communication (S6);
- a predominantly armored combined arms sub-group, composed of two Leclerc tank platoons, a reconnaissance platoon, an infantry combat section, an engineer combat section, and a team fire observation and coordination;
- a national support element, composed of a logistics detachment, a military police detachment and a counter-interference detachment.

The Lynx mission constitutes the contribution of the French armies to the eFP system. The French detachment has about 300 soldiers from units belonging mainly to the 12th Régiments de Cuirassiers (Olivet), the Régiment de Marche du Tchad (Meyenheim), the 13th Régiment du Génie (Valdahon) and the 40th Régiment d’Artillerie (Suippes).

The French detachment includes: a tactical combined arms sub-grouping (SGTIA, Sous-groupement tactique interarmes) predominantly armored, made up of nearly 200 soldiers operating 12 Leclerc tanks, 8 Armored infantry fighting vehicles (VBCI), 21 VBL (Véhicules Blindés Léger, Light armored vehicles) , 2 EBG (Engins Blindés du Génie, Armored Engineer Vehicles) and 8 VAB (Véhicules de l’Avant Blindé- armored vehicles); a national support echelon (ESN) of 100 soldiers implementing 2 DCL (Dépanneurs de char Leclerc, Leclerc tank repair vehicles), 6 PEB (Porte-Engins Blindés, Armored vehicle carriers) and 7 PPLOG (Porteurs polyvalents logistiques, Multipurpose logistics carriers). The SGTIA thus acts as a dissuasive force on Estonian territory, intervening in support of the Estonian forces within the framework of numerous operational activities in particular. It represents 25% of the battalion's operational capacity. By committing high-level resources and maintaining regular operational activity in the region, France shows that it is involved in insurance measures on the East European flank, for the protection and security of the population.

During the summer of 2021, the military personnel deployed within the framework of the operational mission Lynx 9 will be relieved by a new detachment of French soldiers, composed mainly of units of the 501st Combat Tank Regiment. The delivered material will remain in place in order to maintain a robust component: the Lynx 9 mission will then become the Lynx 10 mission.

French SGTIA

The SGTIA (tactical combined arms sub-grouping) is an armored unit formed around two Leclerc tank platoons, a reconnaissance platoon, an infantry combat section, a combat engineer section, and a fire observation and coordination team. Its workforce is nearly 200 soldiers.

The SGTIA is accompanied in its mission by a Logistics Detachment of around 100 people which provides it on the battlefield with fuel and ammunition support, troubleshooting or the delivery of equipment and vehicles. This breaks down as follows:
- A mixed transport section with about 15 heavy transport vehicles for the transport of freight, fuel and heavy or light vehicles (PPLOG-R, PEB ...)
- A repair and maintenance section of around 20 recovery and repair vehicles.