RIGA - The deployment of a battery of surface-to-air missiles to Latvia will change the rules of the game for anyone who could consider using aviation in the territory of Latvia, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For) told LETA, commenting Spain's decision to send a battery of surface-to-air missiles and around 100 troops to the NATO forward presence mission in Latvia.
Pabriks explained that the NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System) battery is a medium-range air defense system, which includes missiles, radar and command systems, and a crew of 100 troops.
NASAMS is not as effective as the Patriot air defense system, and it will not cover the entire territory of Latvia, only some part of it, which is why it will be placed not too far from Riga, said Pabriks. The system is mobile and can be moved from one place to another, it is also significantly cheaper than the Patriot air defense system, which would cost more than EUR 100 million. "At the moment, we only have short-range air defense, so now we're getting the next level of protection," he added.
Former Latvian Land Forces Commander, retired colonel Igors Rajevs told LETA that the surface-to-air missile system would allow Latvia to destroy targets at a height and distance that the Latvian army is currently unable to do, and significantly improve the security situation in the country.
Lithuania has two NASAMS systems, while Estonians have been considering purchasing such a system for some time, said Rajevs. Poland also has a similar air defense system.
"Spain is the first country to provide us with additional security in the air, and I hope that there will be other countries that will follow Spain's example," said Pabriks.