Estonia planning to buy 18 wheeled self-propelled howitzers, build new warship

  • 2024-04-02
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The Estonian defense forces are set to acquire 18 modern Caesar-type self-propelled howitzers from France, as outlined in the new development plan of the Defense Ministry, Postimees reports.

Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said that the wheeled 155 mm caliber howitzers represent the most significant arms purchase in the defense forces' reinforcement package. A total of 18 howitzers are planned to form a separate battalion under the direct command of the 1st Division.

The defense forces currently possess 24 tracked self-propelled howitzers, also 155 mm caliber K9 Thunder, purchased from South Korea. According to the contract, an additional 12 are to be delivered in the coming years.

"The long-range capability will be consolidated under the division's command because, after all, the division shapes the battlefield," Pevkur told Postimees. "To ensure our long-range capability is swift and flexible, we are purchasing additional wheeled howitzers. Whichever direction, whichever brigade needs support during wartime, will receive it. You can't maneuver much with tracks."

Pevkur did not rule out the possibility of acquiring the howitzers for the defense forces even before the arrival of the 12 ordered K9s, which are expected in Estonia by no later than 2026.

Thirty-six tracked self-propelled howitzers cost Estonia around 140 million euros. The 18 wheeled howitzers, according to Postimees' calculations, will cost at least 60 million euros. The price depends on the system purchased. A single Caesar is priced between three to four million euros, Archer around 4.5 million euros, but Zuzanas cost even more.

Another major planned investment is the purchase of a new ship for the Estonian Navy. Pevkur described it as a forced purchase, as the patrol vessel Pikker has reached the end of its service life. The 30-meter-long Pikker, armed with a heavy machine gun, was the first vessel built specifically for the Navy, or at the time actually for the Estonian Border Guard, and was launched in 1995.

The navy must decide on the functionalities they need in a vessel, considering that, in addition to defense tasks, the ship must also perform border guard and pollution control duties.

"The new ship is planned to be built in-house rather than ordered," Pevkur said, adding that the anticipated cost is between 30-40 million euros.

As the third significant investment in the next defense reinforcement package, the defense minister mentioned the purchase of ammunition, including with funds remaining from other procurements.