These Gripens might soon be jetting into the Baltic skies. Photo: Billy Johnston
TALLINN - The Baltic countries may acquire fighters after 2018 in order to police their air space, but it is also possible they will continue to rely on allies after that date, the daily Postimees reported.
The Baltic countries must submit proposals to NATO by 2011 regarding how the issue of their air space security is to be solved after 2018, Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo said.
Presently, NATO partners provide security of the Baltic countries air space by rotation.
If the Baltic countries should decide to acquire fighters, Aaviksoo said, they should first establish what the fighers would be for -- just for policing the air space or also for combat activity.
The minister said that the fighters needed for guarding the air space were much cheaper than those intended for actual warfare, and Estonia couldn't probably afford their purchase.
One of the problems in continuing to rely on other countries' air space security is that that the cost of that type of air space security is going to constantly increase. Until now the Baltic countries only pay for the accommodation of the pilots and the fuel, but it is presumed that after a certain time Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would start paying a part of the costs of amortization and training of the crews.
In addition to the purchase of fighters it is also possible to make an agreement such as Slovenia, where policing of the air space has been permanently shouldered by Italy.
Reserve Lt. Col. Leo Kunnas has said such an agreement 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 in southern Finland.
The online issue of Janes Defence Weekly published an article last Tuesday saying that the Baltic countries were considering the creation of a joint fighter unit.
The Janes article also mentioned NATO's view that new members of the organization should not invest too much into the development of their air forces, if this brings the consequence that they are unable to despatch their forces to foreign missions.
Margus Kolga, director general of the political department of the Estonian Foreign Ministry, said that NATO had not yet decided what to do after 2018. He said the time for more detailed discussion of the issue would only come in 2011.
Kunnas said that Estonia could buy fighters if the country's defense spending would come to 2.15-2.2 percent of GDP. He said fighters would add a lot to the Estonian defense capacity, because they would be successful in case of an attack for the overthrow of the state system.
An overthrow attack, Kunnas said, would presume delivery of airborn forces by means transport aircraft, but fighters could rule out use of transport aircraft and consequently also of the overthrow attack scenario.
Earlier the Swedish weapons manufacturer Saab has mentioned the Baltic countries as a potential market for its Gripen fighters.