U.S. anti-aircraft weapons wanted

  • 2000-09-21
TALLINN (BNS) - Defense Minister Juri Luik is looking at the possibility of equipping the Estonian military with state-of-the-art, U.S.-made air defense weapons costing $28 million.

Luik told the newspaper Eesti Paevaleht that the missile complex Avenger is a very serious contender to anchor of Estonia's presently non-existing air defense.

"Financing of the purchase, of course, is a major problem," Luik said. "Discussions are going on at officials' level about what tactical air defense systems Estonia needs."

Military sources told the newspaper the Defense Ministry had turned to the United States with a request to devise a financing scheme that would make the Avenger missile system affordable for Estonia.

The newspaper said that until his departure from Estonia in January this year, American Defense Attaché Peter Hendrikson had been investigating whether Estonia could lease or rent the missile systems.

The project now is being handled by the representative of the U.S. weapons assistance agency here, Col. John Suprin.

Hendrikson, who has called the Avenger the world's best short-range anti-aircraft system, said it was possible for Estonia to buy Avengers, but he wouldn't go into details, according to Eesti Paevaleht.

Hendrikson currently works as director of French and Italian programs for the U.S. Navy.

An Avenger complex, which comes complete with eight Stinger missiles, costs the U.S. military about $800,000, but more for other countries. There are also additional expenses for transportation, training, service and spare parts.

The estimated cost of arming the Estonian air defense with Avengers amounts to over $3 million.