The 2018-2021 development plan of the Ministry of Defence's area of government calls for the development of armored maneuver capability, a cyber command, the introduction of a new primary rifle and the development of training areas.
Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna on Thursday signed the development plan that sets out the development goals of Estonia's national defense for the coming years as well as the resources to be allocated to achieve these goals, spokespeople for the Ministry of Defence said.
Tsahkna said that during the next four years, Estonia's independent defense capability will increase significantly, allowing the country to be able to react immediately if necessary.
"€40 million of the 2017 budget has been set aside for the purchase of ammunition, and from 2018-2021 we will invest an additional €166.5 million in ammunition in order to increase the combat capability of the defense forces," he stated.
The minister described the launch of an additional defense investment program next year as an important step. "Over the course of three years, €60 million will be allocated from the program to augment stocks of large-caliber ammunition," he highlighted.
The armored maneuver capability program is one of the biggest capability-building projects under the new four-year development plan. By 2019, the Scouts Battalion will have at its disposal a total of 44 CV90 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and will have support armor alongside them by 2020. The first self-propelled artillery that the defense forces are currently in the process of procuring is expected to arrive in Estonia in 2021.
In accordance with the same plan, the primary hand-carried firearms of the Scouts Battalion will be replaced this year already. By 2021, the switch to the new hand-carried firearms should be complete throughout the entire 1st Infantry Brigade. The development plan also calls for the purchase of splinter- and bullet-proof jackets for the entire wartime structure of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) as well as the development of night vision capability.
Cyber command, training areas, infrastructure
In order to develop the command capability and military cyber defense capability of the EDF, a cyber command will be established on the basis of the existing Headquarters Support and Signal Battalion which will bring together the cyber competencies of the entire area of government of the Ministry of Defence. The development plan also calls for the development of an air operations command center and making investments in improving awareness of the maritime situation.
To increase Estonia's military capability and ensure the presence of allies, the development plan calls for investments to be made in training areas. In addition to developing the Central Training Area, it also calls for the development of training areas in Klooga and Nursipalu as well.
Three large barracks as well as a canteen and various buildings meant for the maintenance and storage of equipment are to be completed in Tapa in 2017. Investments in EDF infrastructure and shooting ranges will also continue, the military police will receive a new main building and additional warehouses for ammunition will also be built.
Increased numbers, more engagement of volunteers, women, young
The development plan also earmarks resources for increasing the number of active service military personnel and maintaining the competitiveness of their wages as well as increasing the size of reservist support by about a quarter. Five additional national guard companies will be established as well in order to more effectively engage the volunteer Estonian Defence League in the country's national defense.
Tsahkna also noted the importance of more extensive engagement of women in Estonia's national defense.
"National defense is the responsibility of the people as a whole; all women and men are equally welcome in the defense forces," the minister stressed. "Conscript service is the portal for entry into the defense forces and provides daring women with a unique opportunity to realize their ambitions in national defense."
More attention will be paid to increasing the defensive will of Estonia's young people, for whom a patriotic education program will be launched.
The development plan also sets aside funding for research and development, and calls for the doubling of support for Estonia's defense industry sector.
The development plan for 2018-2021 was drawn up on the basis of the long-term national defense development plan for 2017-2026, NATO capability-building goals as well as the military advice of the Chief of the Estonian Defence Forces.
Editor: Aili Vahtla