Baltics to acquire fighter jets

  • 2008-05-19
  • In cooperation with BNS

These Gripens might soon be jetting into the Baltic skies. Photo: Billy Johnston

TALLINN - The Baltic countries may acquirefighters after 2018 in order to police their air space, but it is also possiblethey will continue to rely on allies after that date, the daily Postimeesreported.

The Baltic countries must submit proposals toNATO by 2011 regarding how the issue of their air space security is to be solvedafter 2018, Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo said.

Presently, NATO partners provide security ofthe Baltic countries air space by rotation.

If the Baltic countries should decide toacquire fighters, Aaviksoo said, they should first establish what the figherswould be for -- just for policing the air space or also for combat activity.

The minister said that the fighters neededfor guarding the air space were much cheaper than those intended for actualwarfare, and Estonia couldn't probably afford their purchase.

One of the problems in continuing to rely onother countries' air space security is that that the cost of that type of airspace security is going to constantly increase. Until now the Baltic countriesonly pay for the accommodation of the pilots and the fuel, but it is presumedthat after a certain time Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would start paying a part of the costs ofamortization and training of the crews.

In addition to the purchase of fighters it isalso possible to make an agreement such as Slovenia, where policing of the air space has been permanentlyshouldered by Italy.

Reserve Lt. Col. Leo Kunnas has said such anagreement would have any sense only if Finland joined NATO as the type of air space security Estonia needs could only be carried out from bases insouthern Finland.

The online issue of Janes Defence Weeklypublished an article last Tuesday saying that the Baltic countries wereconsidering the creation of a joint fighter unit.

The Janes article also mentioned NATO's viewthat new members of the organization should not invest too much into thedevelopment of their air forces, if this brings the consequence that they areunable to despatch their forces to foreign missions.

Margus Kolga, director general of thepolitical department of the EstonianForeign Ministry, said that NATO had not yet decided what to do after 2018. Hesaid the time for more detailed discussion of the issue would only come in2011.

Kunnas said that Estonia could buy fighters if the country's defense spendingwould come to 2.15-2.2 percent of GDP. He said fighters would add a lot to the Estonian defense capacity, becausethey would be successful in case of an attack for the overthrow of the statesystem.

An overthrow attack, Kunnas said, wouldpresume delivery of airborn forces by means transport aircraft, but fighterscould rule out use of transport aircraft and consequently also of the overthrowattack scenario.

Earlier the Swedish weapons manufacturer Saabhas mentioned the Baltic countries as a potential market for its Gripenfighters.