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International Vector An Exclusive Special Operations International Q&A with Lieutenant Colonel Riho Ühtegi, Commander, Estonian Special Operations Force

Q: Tell me about Estonian Special Operations Forces. Ühtegi: From the beginning of restoration of Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) there was always the idea to create a unit similar to Special Forces (SF). In the 1990s there was a small unit called the Special Operations Group (SOG) which was part of the EDF, but this was more of a SWAT-type unit which was disbanded in 1999. At the same time, as a part of military intelligence (MI), a new unit was established and called the Long Range Reconnaissance and Diversion Platoon (LRRDP). In 2003, a concept was developed to reorganize the LRRDP to a modern SOF-type unit. Those initial concepts that we used to plan the initial units and the primary functions of each unit within Estonian Special Operations Forces (ESTSOF), are still very similar to the way we are organized today. Unfortunately not all the decision-makers supported this concept at that time and, as a result, it took us until 2008 to receive the funding and resources to completely establish the unit. This is a reason why we celebrate our anniversary in May each year—starting from 2008. Today, ESTSOF is much larger, but the size and, as would be expected, our tactics, techniques and procedures are classified. It is a separate command under direct subordination to the Chief of Defense. The main mission of unit is to support law enforcement in crisis situation and provide deep operations behind enemy lines 12 | SPECOPS 14.2

in case of war. ESTSOF is capable of conducting—as normal SOF—military operations like direct actions, special reconnaissance, military assistance and unconventional warfare.

Q: Is ESTSOF tasked with both domestic and international operations? Would you be called on if there were an aircraft hijacking or a domestic hostage crisis?

Q: Are there capabilities that you do not have today that you would like to add to ESTSOF?

Ühtegi: ESTOF has already been engaged in international operations. Between 2012 and 2014 our troops operated in Afghanistan. Our troops are now also in Ukraine to support the Ukrainians as they are working to develop their own special operations capabilities. Earlier this year we also participated in the Flintlock exercise in Senegal, Africa, along with I think more than 30 other countries. If another country asked for help from Estonia and our government decided to deploy the ESTSOF unit, we are ready to operate with no caveats. But we prefer military assistancetype missions.

Ühtegi: ESTSOF has limited transportation resources. If we need airlift, we need support from our allies. Airlift is probably the biggest challenge for us. Also we have very limited capabilities for NBC reconnaissance which we would like to improve. Q: The Estonia budget is expecting about a 9 percent increase in 2016 over 2015. That’s a fairly substantial amount in this day and age. How will that affect Estonia special operations? Ühtegi: There will be no remarkable affect. EDF creates armored warfare abilities and this project “eats” most of money.

Q: Do you train for those kinds of missions? Ühtegi: Yes, we train routinely for those kinds of missions. We train for missions on our own, also with police SWAT units and with allied SOF units. www.SPECOPS-dhp.com

Special Operations International March 2016  

Special Operations International is the most widely distributed special; operations publication in the world. Coverage includes exclusive in...

Special Operations International March 2016  

Special Operations International is the most widely distributed special; operations publication in the world. Coverage includes exclusive in...

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