TALLINN - Estonia, Belgium, Cyprus, France, and Hungary signed a cooperation agreement to jointly procure Mistral short-range air defense missile systems -- the joint procurement allows Estonia to save costs and expedite delivery.
"I am very pleased that we are cooperating with our strategic partner, France, to develop Estonia's air defense capability, which has been demonstrated to be crucial due to Russia's aggression in Ukraine," Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur, who signed the agreement on behalf of Estonia on Monday evening in Paris, said.
"The participation of Belgium, Cyprus, and Hungary adds value to the cooperation agreement by enabling cost savings and faster delivery," Pevkur added.
The cooperation agreement authorizes France to carry out the joint procurement on behalf of all participating countries. The plan is to reach an agreement with the French company MBDA this fall.
"By jointly procuring from a European manufacturer, we can also apply for support from the European Union. Our goal is to maximize defense capabilities for every euro invested in national defense," Pevkur said.
Estonia's plan is to acquire missiles for its Mistral short-range air defense system launchers.
"It is important for us to strengthen Estonia's defense capabilities, and when there is an opportunity to cooperate with partner countries in certain areas, it adds even more value. MBDA's Mistral short-range air defense system is widely used in Europe, allowing countries to support each other in system utilization and even cross-utilize stocks during crises," Ramil Lipp, the strategic category manager for weapon systems and ammunition at the Estonian Center for Defense Investment (RKIK), said.
Mistral, produced by the French arms manufacturer MBDA, is an infrared homing surface-to-air missile system that operates on the fire-and-forget principle, with an effective engagement range of up to six kilometers against airborne threats.
The Estonian defense forces ordered the first Mistral systems in 2007 and they have been in service since 2009. Mistral is compact and multifunctional, capable of being launched from the ground, vehicles, ships, and helicopters. The system is used in 30 countries worldwide.
In addition to short-range air defense, Estonia is also developing its medium-range air defense capabilities. In May, Estonia, in partnership with Latvia, decided to begin negotiations with Germany's defense industry company Diehl Defense to reach an agreement for the procurement of the Iris-T SLM air defense system.