Estonia signs largest contract in history for purchase of medium-range air defense systems

  • 2023-09-11
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Estonia and Latvia signed an agreement for the acquisition of medium-range air defense systems IRIS-T SLM from the German defense industry company Diehl Defence at a meeting of the defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Germany near Nuremberg, Germany, on Monday.

The nearly 400 million euro procurement is the largest defense contract in the history of Estonia so far. After the acquisition of the system, the security of Estonian and Latvian airspace will increase significantly, which ensures protection for people and civil and military infrastructure.

The IRIS-T SLM air defense system to be acquired has been designed to work against manned or unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, guided weapon systems and certain types of ballistic missiles, spokespeople for the Center for Defense Investment (RKIK) told BNS.

The system is capable of simultaneously affecting several targets and neutralizing threats from a distance of up to 40 kilometers and an altitude of 20 kilometers. The parts of the system are mobile and can be quickly relocated, as they are mounted on powerful trucks. One launcher of the system can carry up to eight missiles.

In addition to air defense systems, RKIK is also procuring other supporting elements, including launchers, radars, fire control centers, missile, training and lifecycle equipment. In addition, the framework agreement provides the opportunity to acquire various modifications of air defense systems in the future, including systems with long-range capabilities.

"The development of Estonian national defense has reached a new milestone with the medium-range air defense agreement. This is a project of historical significance and unprecedented scope from the point of view of both Estonian military national defense and Estonian-Latvian defense cooperation, which will significantly increase the security of the people of Estonia. Russia's barbaric war in Ukraine has shown that air defense is critical to protecting the population, armed forces and critical infrastructure from air attacks," Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said.

Pevkur added that the historical significance of the procurement for Germany was confirmed by the fact that German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius participated in the signing, which took place at the Diehl Defence development center in Rothenbach near Nuremberg.

"In carrying out this challenging project, we managed to ensure very close competition, short delivery times and the best price. Close cooperation with Latvia made it possible to manage the project more efficiently, achieve economies of scale and it also gave us a better position in negotiations. In the future, the same systems will allow to improve interoperability, exchange experience, share spare parts and ammunition, and organize joint training," Priit Soosaar, RKIK's strategic category manager for C4I, cyber and radars, said.

Soosaar added that for RKIK, the medium-range air defense project has not ended with the signing of the contract, as RKIK's task is to ensure the timely delivery of the first systems to Estonia and the achievement of operational readiness by 2025.

"Our teams managed to close contracts in record time, despite the fact that it is a large and complex undertaking. This is a sign of a true spirit of cooperation. We are grateful that our systems turned out to be the chosen solution in the competition and that you entrust the air defense of Estonia and Latvia to us. With the IRIS-T SLM, Diehl Defence has developed a market-available, highly effective and combat-proven air defense system," Diehl Defence CEO Helmuth Rauch said.

Estonia and Latvia signed a letter of intent for the joint procurement of medium-range air defense systems at the NATO summit in Madrid in June 2022. In July last year, RKIK signed an agreement with the Latvian Ministry of Defense to start joint procurement. The Estonian government allocated funds for the procurement of medium-range air defense systems in September 2022.