It would be good for all three Baltic states to acquire one air defense system - expert

  • 2023-05-22
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The decision of Latvia and Estonia to jointly purchase the IRIS-T medium-range air defense system is commendable, but it would be good if Lithuania also joined the procurement, Juris Maklakovs, former commander of the Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) and Air Force, told LETA.

It is very good that this is a joint procurement, because there has been a lot of talk about it and, as experience has shown, the so-called comprehensive territorial defense extremely important, including in the context of our participation in NATO collective defense. The fact that the decision has been taken by the two countries to work together in the same way as we do with Baltic airspace policing is a very positive step, Maklakovs said. 

Lithuania had previously concluded a contract for the purchase of the Nasams system, but Lithuania's failure to join the IRIS-T procurement is not critical, the former army commander believes. "But it would be good if all three countries did it together, it would be much better. It is not critical because all these systems, despite being produced in different countries, are compatible," Maklakovs added.

IRIS-T is a step forward in the development of air defense, and at this point it is good enough, the expert believes. He also noted that last year the Spanish contingent of the NATO Battle Group deployed the Nasams medium-range air defense system in Latvia.

As reported, Latvia and Estonia have decided to jointly acquire IRIS-T medium-range air defense missiles, which means that this will be the largest military procurement since Latvia regained its independence.

The potential contract amount and other details have not been disclosed, but deliveries of the systems could start in 2025. Until then, soldiers have to be trained and necessary infrastructure developed. The purchase will cost hundreds of millions of euros and talks are already under way with Germany's Diehl Defence, which has been chosen to supply the system. If the talks are successful, the contract could be signed in June or July 2023.

The ISIS-T system will be new, advanced and militarily proven, and it will be effective against Russian aircraft.