COLOGNE, Germany — Estonia, Latvia and Finland have signed a technical agreement for a jointly developed armored vehicle, with Estonia touting the plans as a means to jump-start the defense industry and maintain its security posture following the global coronavirus crisis.
The new pact enables Estonia to continue its participation in the tri-national effort to scope out requirements for the “potential” procurement of a fleet of armored vehicles featuring common components, the Estonian Defence Ministry wrote in a statement.
"We have to keep in mind that our primary goal here is to develop a platform that meets the requirements of Estonian Defence Forces with a favorable price,” Kristikan Prikk, permanent secretary at the ministry, was quoted as saying in the statement. “We see big potential in this project, especially as we are involved already in the development phase, which is the best way to secure that eventually we will have equipment that meets our needs.”
The technical arrangement, inked on Monday, follows a letter of intent signed in December that laid out the broader parameters for the joint project.
Estonia aims to replace its 140 Pasi armored vehicles, made by Finland’s Patria and first fielded in the 1980s. The fleet is expected to reach the end of its useful life in 2024, according to the Defence Ministry.
Initial results toward developing a prototype for a new vehicle are planned for this year, according to officials.
“It is important for us that international defense cooperation, which has a very clear economic dimension, continues,” Prikk said. “In the current crisis, it is also crucial that we continue to strengthen our defense capability and, if possible, lay the foundation for creating new jobs or maintaining existing ones in the Estonian defense industry sector.”
Estonia shares a border with Russia, as do the other two program members Finland and Latvia. Those countries have been nervous about the possibility of Russian military adventurism along its borders with the West. And with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on national economies and testing international alliances, some issue experts believe there could be more reason to worry when the dust settles.