The head of the Estonian parliament's national defense committee, Marko Mihkelson, disagrees with the opinion of reserve Lt. Col. Leo Kunnas that there is no armored capability to speak about without tanks, and believes that Estonia will have a modern mechanized infantry battalion by the end of this decade.
"I cannot agree with this categorical statement of reserve lieutenant colonel Kunnas. Several military conflicts of late, in Iraq and Afghanistan alike, have proved the opposite, and the ability of the CV-90 infantry fighting vehicles acquired by Estonia to disturb and destroy enemy armor has been confirmed in a real combat situation," Mihkelson told the ERR news portal.
Mihkelson said that Estonia's armored capability in the true sense of the word is still under construction. "As a former high-ranking officer of the defense headquarters Kunnas knows this very well. These decisions, what to procure and for what, were made several years ago when the now valid national defense development plan was drawn up. Central to the latter is the notion that in the establishment of each new capability we must base our decisions on need, available funds and whether or not we are able to achieve the goal within the established time frame," he said.
"It was years ago that Estonia gave up a paper army, wishful thinking that is, and focused on developing real and consistent capabilities instead," the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) MP said.
Mihkelson said armored capability means not just the acquisition of infantry fighting vehicles but consists of the whole big background bringing together also the training of units as well as logistics and support.
"All this takes time and can be accomplished only through consistent action. Today we can be confident that by the end of the decade Estonia will have a modern mechanized infantry battalion that is able to fulfill the tasks assigned to it," the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee said.
"When it comes to additional development of the armored capability, such as establishing a tank battalion, it has to be consistent with our own general defense strategy and resource planning as well as that of NATO allies. This year we are conducting a review of the ten-year defense development plan, which definitely will include an analysis of all the investments that are necessary to increase Estonia's independent defense capability," Mihkelson added.
Kunnas has said that while the decision of the government to buy 37 tracked platforms of IFVs from Norway looks sensible to him, the problem always has been that these vehicles cannot be used in mechanized warfare without tanks.
"Without tanks all this is just a bunch of vehicles. This lineup can't be used in mechanized combat in open terrain," Kunnas said on the Terevisioon morning program of ETV television on Tuesday.