UK troops in largest armored deployment in Eastern Europe for six years

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is carrying out its largest armored deployment in Eastern Europe for six years, in a joint exercise with Poland to reassure it in the wake of Russia's intervention in Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense said on Friday.

Last month NATO-member Poland said it was drawing up a long-term plan to shift some of its military strength toward its eastern border, following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea earlier this year.

Britain said around 1,300 of its soldiers were taking part in the bilateral UK-Polish field training exercise in southwest Poland alongside a Polish cavalry brigade and tank battalion.

"The training is designed to develop interoperability between the two armed forces and is a key demonstration of UK support to NATO reassurance measures in the region," the ministry said in a statement.

Further deployments were expected over the next two years, it said.

At a summit in Wales in September, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation agreed to form a new rapid reaction force and step up exercises in eastern Europe in response to Russia's actions.

Britain has already assigned six Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets to carry out air patrols over the Baltic states as part of efforts to reassure its NATO allies.

On Thursday the alliance's chief said NATO warplanes scrambled 400 times this year in response to levels of Russian air activity around Europe not seen since the Cold War.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Andrew Roche)