VILNIUS – A contract on acquisition of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) signifies a new page in cooperation between Lithuania and the United States, Lithuania's Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys said after a meeting with General Charles Quinton Brown, Jr, chief of staff of the US Air Force, in Vilnius on Tuesday.
“Last week, we got very important news about acquisition of HIMARS. Modern conventional wars are fought by brigades, divisions and even larger formations, hence acquisition of HIMARS enables us to move to a higher fighting league,” Rupsys said during a news conference.
“It’s a new page for cooperation with the United States,” he added.
Purchase of HIMARS, worth 495 million US dollars, marks Lithuania’s largest ever acquisition of military equipment.
During their bilateral meeting, General Brown and Rupsys talked about the contribution of the United States to the modernization of Lithuania’s Air Force and the development of its capabilities as well as about a possibility to replace the existing air policing mission with an air defense mission.
“All Air Force capabilities of our strategic allies – the United States of America – are in the hands of the general, I’d say even more, that he is likely one of the richest people in the world because he has the most expensive tools, which an army may have, in his hands,” Rupsys said.
Speaking about the meeting with General Brown, he said it had been agreed that effective air defense required “a clear perception of threats and possibilities” as well as “detailed planning” so as to make sure that Lithuania would be supported by allies in the areas it lacked stronger capabilities.
“The dimension of air defense is that particular area where the contribution of the United States is vitally important both for the enemy’s deterrence and for defense if necessary,” he stressed.
Chief of staff of the US Air Force stated in his turn that the two countries collaborated “on a series of” issues, including modernization of integrated Lithuania’s air defense.
“Air missile defense is something that is very important in the defense of any nation, it's important to NATO and it's an aspect that we will continue to work on as an air force as we train very closely with our NATO partners,” he said.
He thanked Lithuania for its “robust support to Ukraine defending itself against Russia's unprovoked aggression” and said that air defense systems were particularly important for that country’s defense, too.
The US deployed a regularly-rotated company of about 150 troops in Lithuania after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014. After company rotations were stopped three years later, the Americans started sending rotational battalions to Lithuania in 2019.
US troops are stationed in the Pabrade training ground in Svencionys District.
The US actively contributes to Lithuania's and regional defense by providing troops, weapons and financial support.