UK loans Estonia four Jackal vehicles to support counter-terror mission in Mali


Estonian Special Forces deploying to Mali will be loaned four Jackal armoured vehicles by the UK Ministry of Defence.

UK Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey confirmed the loan, plus a three-week training package, for soldiers of the Estonian Armed Forces.

The loan, announced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 9 July, will equip Estonian troops as they join the international fight against Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa.

“With the Jackal 2 the Estonian Armed Forces will be equipped with a proven, battle winning vehicle as they join the international effort to tackle terrorism,” Heappey said.

The Jackals will help the Estonians navigate unpredictable terrain in the Sahel, where their presence will add to the UK’s impact on the international effort to fight the illegal migration routes into Europe, and terrorist groups that operate in the region, the UK MoD said.

British Army experts were last week due to finish providing drivers and crew from the Estonian military with a three-week training course on operating the Jackal 2 at Robertson Barracks in Norfolk.

The UK is loaning the Jackal 2 vehicles to the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) while they await the delivery of their Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles. The Jackals will be loaned until March 2021 or earlier if the Coyotes are delivered before then.

Boasting a unique air-bag suspension system allowing rapid movement across the roughest terrain, the Jackal has been extensively used by British forces in Afghanistan. Designated as a “high mobility weapons system”, it is designed to protect personnel against roadside explosions and mine attacks but also has an “open” crew compartment and a gun-ring with 360-degree sweep for excellent observation and agility, the UK MoD said.

Armed with a general purpose machine gun for crew protection, it can also carry either a heavy machine gun or a grenade machine gun as the main weapons system in the fire support role. The Jackal has a gross vehicle mass of 7 600 kg and can carry 2 100 kg of payload. Top speed is 120 km/h and range 800 km. It is powered by a Cummins 6.7 litre diesel engine.

The vehicles are made by Devon-based company Supacat, which has manufactured 212 Jackals with the support of defence company Babcock since the United Kingdom placed a £74 million contract in 2008.

Earlier this year Estonia announced it will send more soldiers to Mali, with an Estonian Special Operations Unit being ready to move to Mali from mid-2020 to assist and support the Malian security forces in close cooperation with French Special Operations Units. The special forces will join the French-led Task Force Takuba.

Estonia is currently participating in three different operations in Mali: the French-led Barkhane operation, the UN peacekeeping mission Minusma and the European Union training mission EUTM Mali.

Estonian soldiers began serving with Minusma from September 2013. The main goal of the mission is peace keeping and support of the Mali government, assisting in administrative capacities and protection of human rights in the nation. Estonia joined the Barkhane mission in August 2018 – their main task is to ensure the security of the French outdoor base in Gao and the surrounding area. Operation Barkhane is a French-led insurgency operation in the Sahel. Its purpose is to support the fight against Islamic extremists in five countries (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad) and thus to prevent illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings towards Europe.

Estonian soldiers have used XA-188 armoured personnel carriers in Mali as well as Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). The THeMIS (Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System) was initially deployed to Mali with the Estonian Defence Forces in April 2019. Up until April 2020, the vehicle was regularly used during patrols by Estonian soldiers and for transporting supplies within their base. Altogether three Estonian platoons utilised the vehicle during their deployments.