NATO troops have taken part in terrifying World War I-style trench drills as they stand braced for war with tyrant Putin.
The chilling war games took place just 80 miles from the Russian border in -12C temperatures using the world’s most lethal tanks and high-tech weapons.
15Nato forces taking part in WWI-style trench warfare drills in EstoniaCredit: Ian Whittaker15The battle takes place in a warren of trenches using blank bulletsCredit: Ian Whittaker15Pictures show soldiers ‘taking cover from Russian troops’ in a bunker at the baseCredit: Ian Whittaker15The war games inside the snaking trenches involved troops from Estonia, Britain, France, Denmark and the USCredit: Ian WhittakerNato’s snow-covered Winter Camp in Estonia was the backdrop for the exercise with Britain, France, Denmark, the US and Estonian troops all taking part.
The Sun has been given first-hand access to the drills as our soldiers stand alongside their comrades from across Europe while international tensions run high.
This year, the annual exercises are held in the shadow of the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Our Sun reporter was alongside our boys as they face the blistering cold just a stone’s throw from the doorstep of Mad Vlad.
In one striking exercise, the Estonian forces, playing enemy combatants, have to defend a series of trenches carved into the ground of the Central Training Area military base, around an hour’s drive east of Estonia’s capital Tallinn.
The Estonian troops aim their Browning machine gun and R20 RAHE assault rifles at a line of trees some 30 feet from their trenches.
Dramatic pictures show them “open fire” on the approaching French troops, who are the Nato contingent in the exercise.
Although firing blanks, the sound rattles through half a mile of crisscrossing trenches – their walls supported by huge tree trunks.
Footage shows French troops storming through the bunkers, taking out Estonian troops one by one who ‘play dead’ in the attack.
War ‘casualties’ are dragged unceremoniously through the snow and mud-filled trench – similar to brutal scenes from the First World War.
Two Danish-driven Leopard 2 A7 tanks, which one soldier describes as “the most lethal tank in Europe,” were also unleashed in the terrifying war games.
The menacing war machines are currently making their way into Ukraine after Germany kept its promise to deliver them to the frontline.
As Nato rallied its troops for drills in frosty Estonia, Russia suffered its deadliest day on the battlefield – losing 1,000 troops in just 24 hours.
The blood of Putin’s men was reportedly spilt before they had even advanced 30ft as they staged another winter assault in the east.
The humiliating defeat will only bolster Ukrainian and Nato troops as the alliance carry out its show of strength near Putin’s border.
Temperatures at the base have plummeted to chilly -12C, presenting a whole new series of challenges for Nato’s forces.
One Estonian soldier explains to The Sun that in the spring when the ground softens, they would be able to dig a trench such as this in just 24 hours.
But in the icy cold, with the ground frozen solid, they have to use pick axes to carve into the earth.
The camp is around an hour and a half drive from the Estonian capital Tallinn, through snow-covered fields dotted with farmhouses and Soviet-era apartment blocks.
Dense forests of fir trees provide perfect cover for camouflaged tanks and military vehicles, on the vast military base, about the size of 15,000 football pitches.
Along with other Nato forces, including the native Estonian army, the Brits have been building up for huge war games featuring heavy armour, helicopters, and rocket launchers.
One British tank driver, a Lance Corporal in the King’s Royal Hussars tank regiment, said the exercises demonstrate the closeness of the Nato forces.
15Troops also reenacted carrying ‘casualties’ through the trenches to safetyCredit: Ian Whittaker15Soldiers opened fire on the ‘enemy’ during the dillsCredit: Ian Whittaker15The French fighting their way through the trenchesCredit: Ian Whittaker15A team of British Royal engineers practise firing from tanks during the drillCredit: Ian Whittaker”We can see that our Estonian counterparts are worried about what’s going on with Russia. But they feel we’re here to help.
“We have a close bond as part of Nato now. Nato is one team, and the Estonians have got on board with that.
“They’ve opened their arms to us, and they’re learning from us.
“If anything was to happen in the future, we’d be ready for anything.”
Many of the soldiers have been here in the tiny Baltic nation bordering Russia for the past five months, conducting training drills and improving their battle readiness.
All of their hard work will pay off as they take part in Nato’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup.
The training, which for many of the soldiers in Keskpolügoon started back in September, hasn’t been without its challenges.
The British contingent has been quickly learning how to fight in the unforgiving cold of Estonia.
15A soldier opens fire inside the trenches which stretch for half a mileCredit: Ian Whittaker15Although firing blanks, the sound rattles through half a mile of trenchesCredit: Ian Whittaker15Dramatic pictures show soldiers ‘opening fire’ on approaching French troopsCredit: Ian Whittaker15Temperatures have plummeted to -12C presenting a new series of challengesCredit: Ian WhittakerThe Brit tank driver added: “Learning to operate and fight, as well as live, in this environment, is our biggest challenge.”
“We can take the skills and drills we have learned here and take them back to the UK, or wherever we operate,”
“We can adapt them to any battlefield.”
One of his French counterparts, Julien, a lieutenant who commands a 30-person platoon, agreed.
He said: “It is important for the Estonians to see all of us from Nato here. It allows us to reassure them. To show them that Nato and the West are with them.
“They have a possible enemy nearby,” he added. “They are aware they are in a risky situation.”
A corporal in the British army, who works as a signaller, took The Sun through the battle crew.
In a basecamp built among the frosted woods, a Bulldog FV432 armoured personnel carrier, a Panther protected patrol vehicle, and a Danish Piranha tank hulk over the surrounding soldiers.
But when the brave troops miss home, the corporal said they can go into the Bulldog and make a cup of tea.
The Danish and Estonian soldiers may be more used to the cold than their British counterparts, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t learning from the UK.
Rasmus, a deputy commander in the Danish army, explained that the Brits and Danes have been cooperating in these types of missions as far back as the 1990s during the wars in the Balkans.
Denmark was able to demonstrate its new state-of-the-art German-built Leopard 2 tanks.
Received two years ago, these exercises mark the first time they have been deployed outside of Denmark.
15Temperatures have been as low as -12 in the region as troops battle snow and iceCredit: Ian Whittaker15The Sun has been given first-hand access to the drills 80 miles from the Russian borderCredit: Ian Whittaker15British Corporal Whitfied talked the Sun through the battle crewCredit: Ian Whittaker
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk