RIGA - In the event of a conventional war, Latvia's airports would be one of the main targets of an attack, and one missile would be enough to make it impossible to use the runway to evacuate the population, Juris Maklakovs, former commander of the Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) and Air Force, told LETA.
Reminding about Latvia's small size and reasoning hypothetically, Maklakovs said that a potential aggressor would first strike critical infrastructure - airports, ports, the railway system and other facilities. These facilities would be the primary target of an attack to prevent the deployment of additional NATO forces to Latvia.
The expert pointed out that relatively small air strikes would be sufficient to damage an airport runway. "The runway would be damaged by missiles, plus there is still debris. It would take months to rebuild the infrastructure," Maklakovs added.
There is also the possibility that in the event of war, Latvian airspace would be closed to civil aviation or flight restrictions would be imposed.
Speaking about the protection of critical infrastructure from air strikes, Maklakovs pointed out that Latvia is a NATO member state and, in the event of a threat, air defense in Latvia would definitely be strengthened. He also reminded about the Alliance's air defense systems already deployed in the country and the plans to reinforce air defense.
LETA already reported that the NASAMS medium-range air defense system of the Spanish Armed Forces is currently deployed at the Lielvarde military base. Latvia and Estonia have also jointly chosen to purchase the IRIS-T medium-range air defense system, which means that this will be the largest military procurement since Latvia regained its independence. Deliveries could start in 2025.
LETA has verified that according to publicly available information, there are several airports in Latvia that can be used by large passenger aircraft. Riga and Liepaja airports are such. The Lielvarde Air Force Base is also used to transport large military transport aircraft.
Ventspils Airport is a civil aviation aerodrome of national importance and the technical parameters of the aerodrome allow for the handling of aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 30 tons or less. This means that the airport can accommodate medium-class aircraft.