MDNG and Estonia partner for ACE training during Air Defender

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Laura Weaver
  • 175th Wing

More than 100 Airmen from the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard, recently completed an agile combat employment (ACE) movement in Estonia as a forward operating location of exercise Air Defender 2023 (AD23).

Exercise AD23 is German-led, multinational NATO exercise with a total of 235 aircraft from 25 nations and over 10,000 personnel participating throughout the European theater held June 12-23.

Pilots assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron supported Estonian and other NATO joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) June 6-16 for training sorties in Maryland A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft, to include close-air support missions and live-munition drops at water and air-to-ground ranges.

“One of the Air National Guard objectives for this exercise was to integrate with as many of our state partners as possible,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Paul Kanning, 175th Operations Group commander. “We are able to bring a diverse set of missions to Estonia, and the training that both the Maryland Air National Guard and the Estonian defense force accomplish by working together makes all of us a more lethal force.”

During their time in Estonia, Maryland pilots flew more than 56 training sorties, fired more than 5,000 30-millimeter rounds, and deployed more than 60 munitions in its live-fire exercises, including the AGM-65 maverick, AGR-20 rocket, and BDU-50 bomb.

“The A-10 pilots are always on top of the game, so it was a good time,” said Estonian air force 1st Lt. Tanel Landsmann, JTAC. “We say where and when, then they do the job.”

The partnership between Maryland and Estonia for exercise AD23 is also significant as this year marks 30 years of partnership between the two through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The SPP partners states and countries around the globe together to develop military-to-military and interagency operations through training exercises and bilateral engagements that strengthen partnership and enhance cooperation between both countries.

“I’m most proud of how our partnership with Estonia has grown over the past 30 years,” said Kanning. “The hard work and effort of the Estonians to create a range space produced a training environment better than anything we have access to on the East Coast of the United States. Simultaneously, we were able to provide the Estonian JTACs with aircraft and ordnance critical to their training requirements.”

Landsmann concurred, saying that “it’s a huge bonus” for his team to have the opportunity to train together with Maryland as partners.

“It’s a sign of strength and a sign of union,” he said. “That’s what NATO is for.”

The Maryland National Guard will continue to participate in operational and tactical-level field training throughout Germany for the remainder of exercise AD23.