WARSAW, Poland — Latvian Defence Minister Ināra Mūrniece has announced the country’s military expenditure could reach the level of 3% of its gross domestic product earlier than planned, as she aims to sign contracts for the purchase of Naval Strike Missile anti-ship systems and six M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, this spring.
Mūrniece said at a meeting of the parliament’s Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee her ministry has three programs underway that need to be accelerated to bolster Latvia’s defense capacities. These include coastal defense against enemy ships, artillery systems, and medium-range air defense systems, she said, as quoted by local news agency LETA.
“It is expected that we will reach [defense spending of] 3 percent of the GDP by 2027, but with these faster-moving projects, I think that we will reach 3 percent of the GDP before 2027,” Mūrniece said.
The three Baltic states have accelerated their missile and artillery acquisition programs in response to the lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Should Latvia place an order for Lockheed Martin’s HIMARS weapons, it could become the third Baltic nation to operate the long-range, mobile rocket launchers in the future. Last December, Estonia signed a deal with the United States to purchase six of the weapons, and the same month Lithuania and the U.S. government inked a contract for as many as eight.
The NSM is a sea-skimming, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile developed by U.S. Raytheon and Norway’s Kongsberg.
For 2023, Riga plans to allocate close to €987 million, roughly $1 billion, to its defense budget, or about 2.25% of the Latvian GDP.
At the same time, Latvia is advancing its project to reinstate mandatory military service after ending conscription in 2007, with a relevant bill awaiting a vote by the parliament. This year, the Latvian National Armed Forces are to draft the first group of volunteers, and in 2027, all male citizens aged 18 to 27 will be required to chose one of the available forms of military service.
“A citizen of Latvia will be required to serve one year, which also includes one month of leave. New recruits will undergo three-month basic training and [a] three-month specialty course, while [the] remaining five months will be devoted to integration into units and collective training,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
The country’s government aims “to increase the share of combat-ready population of Latvia … to 50,000″ in 2027. Of these, 14,000 troops are to operate in active service units, 16,000 are to serve in the National Guard, and 20,000 in the reserve force, according to the statement.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.