Nearly 200 soldiers from the Royal Artillery base at Baker Barracks on the Isle of Thorney are being sent to mainland Europe at the request of the Polish government as the bloody war between the Ukrainian and Russian borders continues to rage.
Around 100 members of the 16th Regiment will arrive in Poland next month, fielding Britain’s latest weapon, the world-class Sky Saber missile defense system capable of obliterating jets and hypersonic missiles.
Among them will be three soldiers who postponed their departure from the army or changed units to join the mission.
They will be supported by a detachment of around 60 soldiers from the 12th Regiment, equipped with the Starstreak missile system, which can be shoulder-launched or fired from a Stormer armored vehicle, to destroy aerial threats such as helicopters.
A Stormer vehicle firing group, which can carry up to 17 missiles that can travel more than three times the speed of sound, was deployed to Poland last week.
Colonel Graham Taylor, head of the Army’s 7th Air Defense Group, insisted the mission would not see British troops entering Ukraine and said: “The British Government have agreed that we will provide a capability to ground air defense, in a defensive posture, to Poland.’
The deployment comes after 30 cruise missiles were reportedly launched by Russia at a Ukrainian military training base near the Polish border, raising fears that Poland could be inadvertently destroyed by ‘indiscriminate’ NATO airstrikes. Russian army.
Speaking about the crisis in Ukraine, Colonel Taylor said: “It is a desperately difficult situation. It is politically very difficult. Emotionally it’s very difficult [but] as soldiers, our job is to answer the call when needed.
“It’s part and parcel of being a soldier and being in the military that when you’re asked to deploy overseas, you turn to and deploy.
“But I can tell you that many, if not all, soldiers are eagerly waiting to make a small contribution.”
The Sky Saber only recently entered service with the British Army, officially replacing its predecessor, the Rapier, during military service in January.
The high-tech kit is capable of detecting enemy aircraft and missiles from around 75 miles away. The system is so sophisticated and precise that the military claims it could intercept “24 tennis balls all moving simultaneously at the speed of sound”.
Captain James Billingham, 27, of Thorney Island, is part of 16 Regiment working as a Regimental Operations Officer and will be deployed to Poland.
He said: “Seeing what’s happening in Ukraine is very distressing and certainly for some people, I think it’s very difficult to watch.”
“At a time of great uncertainty around the world, we all joined the military to make a difference and do something – and right now I find myself in a position where I can actively contribute to helping make the world a safer place. location.’
The regiment’s deployment was personal, with a Polish soldier in the unit having family in Ukraine, said Capt Billingham, who added: “For the soldiers, it only increases the enthusiasm and desire to do what they can to support those people.’
Major John Axell, commanding officer of the 16th Regiment, was full of pride for his troops – which include a number of RAF personnel.
He added that some soldiers had even postponed their retirement to join the mission in Poland.
“We have three soldiers preparing to deploy who have delayed transfers and separation from the military in order to deploy to this operation,” he revealed, adding, “The commitment of our soldiers is very high”. They are talented operators.
The Sky Saber system is currently deployed in the Falkland Islands.
However, its mission in Poland will be the first time it will be used on European soil.
Lance Bomber Alex Jaggers is a deck commander on the system and hailed it as a “big change” from the old Rapier system, describing the new weapon as a “fabulous piece of kit”.
Speaking about the deployment, he added: “The morale is quite high at the moment. Everyone is pretty eager to get out there and sort things out.
Bombardier Robin Hearn of the 12th Regiment leads a team of four soldiers in a Stormer vehicle.
Asked how he feels about the mission in Europe, the determined 38-year-old insisted he was ‘all right’ and added: ‘It’s our job; that’s what we’re supposed to do – that’s what we’re going to do.
Troops could be deployed for up to six months.