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The Queen's Royal Hussars and Challenger 2 tanks perfect their skills on Exercise Tallinn Dawn

The Queen’s Royal Hussars (QRH) and their Challenger 2 main battle tanks have been taking part in Exercise Tallinn Dawn in Germany which prepares them to deploy to Estonia as the lead Battlegroup on the upcoming Operation Cabrit 12 – demonstrating the UK’s continued commitment to future-ready Army and NATO / European security.

The 22-day exercise involved an Armoured Battlegroup of 800 soldiers and 250 vehicles including the Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior armoured fighting vehicles and other armoured vehicles - the types of equipment that the UK is providing to Ukraine to support their defence against Russia.

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Wilson explains what the validation exercise means: 

“Exercise Tallinn Dawn is the culmination of all the mission ready collective training that the QRH Battlegroup have been conducting for the last six months. It is a significant milestone to bring all elements of the Battlegroup, including a French Foreign Legion Company, together in an expeditionary deployment to Germany to test our ability to live fire on Combined Arms Manoeuvre.”

The QRH is the most senior armoured regiment in the British Army. Its personnel operate the Challenger 2, providing armoured strength on the battlefield.

It is a significant milestone to bring all elements of the Battlegroup, including a French Foreign Legion Company, together in an expeditionary deployment to Germany to test our ability to live fire on Combined Arms Manoeuvre. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Wilson
CO Queen's Royal Hussars

The regiment, in its current form was established in 1993, when the Queen’s Own Hussars and the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars were brought together into a single unit. With a distinguished service history, the regiment have played a crucial role in almost every conflict since their formation, including Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The Combat Ready Training Centre based within the Sennelager Training Area oversees the exercise with mentors and observers on the ground advising personnel. Tracking devices are fitted to troops and equipment like the Challenger 2, which relay information to the Exercise Control room where data on how the Battlegroup are performing is collated. The results from the information collected are then analysed to provide assessment and feedback of the Battlegroup’s performance. 

The demanding Tallinn Dawn exercise is an arduous mix of simulation and live-firing (day and night) field training exercises, involving armour, infantry, artillery, and engineers. Delay and hold serials were also carried out to trade space for time with a range of supporting capabilities fixed together to develop the level of competencies, capabilities and integration required. 

Following the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, NATO established the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in the Baltic States, designed to protect and reaffirm the security of the alliance’s member states. British units rotate on a continuous basis alongside Danish, French, and host nation Estonian forces.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited the eFP in Estonia in mid-January 2023, where he met troops alongside counterparts from European nations to agree further support for Ukraine. The visit came as the UK announced the most significant package of combat power to date for Ukraine to accelerate their success in expelling Russian forces. That package included a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks with armoured recovery and repair vehicles.

The UK was the first country to donate modern, Western main battle tanks and the Challenger 2 will provide Ukrainian troops with better protection and more accurate firepower. Training for Ukrainian Armed Forces on the equipment will begin in late January 2023.

Operation Cabrit, established in 2017, is the name of the UK operational deployment to Estonia and the Baltic states, where around 900 British personnel lead a multinational, combat-ready force Battlegroup as part of the eFP.

Lieutenant Colonel Wilson looks ahead to The Queen’s Royal Hussars role as the Battlegroup on Op Cabrit and what it will involve:

“We are looking forward to deploying to Estonia and integrating with the 1st Estonian Brigade. The opportunity to hone our skills in a new environment with a very capable armoured battlegroup, including a French Foreign Legion Company, is the pinnacle of our role as armoured soldiers.”

We have deployed Challenger 2 tanks and their crews on Op Cabrit 1, 5, 6 and 7 and, on top of our battlegroup deployment on Cabrit 12, are expecting to send more tanks and troops to Cabrit 13 and 14. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Wilson
CO Queen's Royal Hussars

And he adds:

“Whilst deployed, the battlegroup will conduct multiple exercises with the Estonians to learn how to integrate and operate effectively with them. We are especially lucky to deploy on Exercise Spring Storm, a nation-wide live fire exercise across public land in Estonia which will be the culmination of the integration package.”

The QRH take up the role as Battlegroup for Operation CABRIT from the King’s Royal Hussars as part of the regular rotation of forces. UK Armed Forces and partners have a pivotal role to play, enhancing Euro-Atlantic security in the regions, reassuring our allies, and deterring our adversaries.

“The Queen’s Royal Hussars are very familiar and close with our Estonian allies”, continues Lieutenant Colonel Wilson.

“We have deployed Challenger 2 tanks and their crews on Op Cabrit 1, 5, 6 and 7 and, on top of our battlegroup deployment on Cabrit 12, are expecting to send more tanks and troops to Cabrit 13 and 14. However, for many of our soldiers it will be their first overseas operational deployment which is quite the challenge.”

“Overseas deployments undeniably place a strain on individuals and their families. However, as a family regiment with extensive operational experience we are used to preparing soldiers for this challenge and making sure their families are well supported throughout.”

The QRH were last in Estonia in 2021 on Operation Cabrit 7 and, as their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Wilson is proud to be leading the Battlegroup on their next operation:

“When we go to Estonia our identity is not as The Queen’s Royal Hussars or the British Army. Our identity will be as the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup. This is vital to reassuring our NATO allies that, when called, we are ready to mobilise, fight and defend the NATO alliance. The Estonian people have invited and welcomed NATO troops to help strengthen the NATO alliance across the Baltics states to deter aggression in Eastern Europe.”