WARSAW, Poland — Slovenian Defense Minister Marjan Šarec has announced the country’s government is in talks to purchase the German-made IRIS-T medium-range air defense system in the near future.
“At the moment, we do not have a very efficient air defense system,” Šarec told public broadcaster RTV Slovenija. “Some in Slovenia say that we are collectively protected by NATO, but it takes some time for allied aircraft to reach Slovenia, and air defense with such a system is something different from aircraft.”
The ministry has not disclosed the acquisition’s estimated value. However, local paper Delo reported that Ljubljana aims to spend about €200 million ($223 million) to purchase the surface-launched, medium-range (SLM) variant of the system which is manufactured by Diehl Defence.
Owing to the planned acquisition, Slovenia could join an expanding group of eastern flank allies who are in the process of securing the IRIS-T for their militaries. Last May, Estonia and Latvia announced they are kicking off negotiations to buy the system.
Germany has also delivered the interceptors to Ukraine to support the nation’s combat against the ongoing Russian invasion. The IRIS-T has a range of up to 40 kilometers (25 miles).
In the cabinet, Šarec represents the Freedom Movement party of Prime Minister Robert Golob which rules together with two smaller coalition partners, the Social Democrats and the Left. The planned IRIS-T purchase is already creating tensions within the government, as the latter party’s representatives have criticized it, claiming Slovenia does not need to buy the interceptors to bolster its security.
The Slovenian Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, wants the investment to be understood as a national contribution to an emerging NATO air defense network.
“Slovenia, together with 19 other countries, accepted the German initiative to strengthen the European pillar of NATO’s joint air and missile defence through the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI),” a spokesperson for the agency told Defense News. “Slovenian Minister of Defence Maran Šarec has been authorised by the government to sign a memorandum of understanding on the joint procurement of land-based air defence systems under the ESSI.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 14 to include a comment from the Slovenian MOD.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.