WARSAW, Poland — Estonia is developing its defense capacities in response to Russia’s actions in the region, with multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), air defense systems, coastal missile defense systems as well as unmanned and cyber defense capabilities ranking high in its acquisition plans, according to Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet.
“Last May, we announced that, together with our neighbors Latvia and Lithuania we will buy the MLRS for our militaries,” Laanet told Defense News during the first day of the Warsaw Security Forum, an event organized by the Casimir Pulaski Foundation think tank. “My opinion is that the Baltic states should have common capabilities to fight, but also deter any aggressor, so that they have to take us seriously.”
In 2017, Lithuania signed a deal with Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to acquire the network centric air defense system (NASAMS). Under Estonia’s National Defence Development Plan for the years 2017 to 2026, the country is also planning to purchase a similar short- to mid-range air defense system.
“We would like to start this project in cooperation with the U.S.,” the minister said.
Asked about other potential joint procurements, such as an acquisition of fighter jets to safeguard the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace, Laanet said, “We haven’t discussed this, but I always say: never say never.”
NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission was launched on 30 March 2004, one day after the three countries joined the alliance. Today, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania still depend on other allies, as they lack their own fighters that could be deployed to such missions.
Meanwhile, other projects in the pipeline include procuring new unmanned capacities for the Estonian armed forces, and investing in cyber defense capabilities, according to Laanet who said that Estonian company Milrem Robotics is developing unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) that could be supplied to the country’s military.
“We also have a pilot project to build unmanned vessels for the Estonian Navy. A consortium of defense companies has been put together, and the first vessel of this type is expected to be launched in 2026,” the minister said.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.