Estonian defense chief: Raising number of conscripts ambitious goal
Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Lt. Gen. Riho Terras described as ambitious the goal of the newly unveiled national defense development plan to increase the number of conscripts.
The National Defence Development Plan 2017-2026 unveiled on Friday foresees increasing the annual number of conscripts in the coming years to to 4,000 as well as an increase in the number of active service personnel. The defense forces' rapid response structure is also to increase from 21,000 to more than 25,000 troops.
Terras told BNS that the defense forces plan to increase the number of active servicemen at a rather moderate pace and increase the number of conscripts faster. "It's not an easy task, but goals must be ambitious," he said.
Not long ago, 2,500 young men were called up annually before conscription was increased to 3,200, Terras recalled. "Some years even 3,500 young people enter into service, so we only need 500 more," he observed.
Both Terras and Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso emphasized the need to broaden the base of conscription. Hanso noted that while currently approximately 30 percent of young men reaching conscription age in a given year do military service, the aim is to raise this ratio to 50 percent.
The new defense development plan also calls for adding an artillery battalion and a light infantry battalion to the 2nd Infantry Brigade; it is planned to man these units with reservists.
The plan also prescribes the formation of a cyber command as a fifth service, which will provide Estonia with military cyber operations capability, i.e. counterattack abilities in addition to attack prevention. Likewise planned are the establishment of a situation center for better management of crises and the development of contigency plans that would enable key state institutions to continue working if attacked.
The National Defence Development Plan 2017-2026 foresees procurement of mobile artillery and anti-tank systems with a range of 4-8 kilometers (approximately 2.5-5 miles). There are also plans for the vigorous development of intelligence and early warning capacities and special operations capability, modernization of minehunters and replacement of automatic firearms.