Local consortium looking to manufacture armored vehicles in Estonia
Around ten Estonian defense contractors led by Milrem have initiated the creation of a consortium that will participate in the intended joint procurement of armored vehicles with Finland and Latvia and manufacture vehicles in Estonia, if possible.
The defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Finland signed an agreement of good intentions in December for research and technical development in the field of defense. The agreement says consultations on the acquisition of armored vehicles for the Estonian, Latvian and Finnish defense forces will be initiated in the framework of trilateral defense cooperation.
The Pasi armored vehicles manufactured in the Patria plant in Finland are currently in use by the Defense Forces. It is likely that the three-axle or 6x6 armored prototype would also be developed by Patria.
"Estonian industry has teamed up and made a statement on wanting to be a part of this project," Estonian Defense Industry Union (EKTL) Chief Executive Tarmo Ränisoo told ERR. According to him, the companies have proposed the defense ministry two ways of participating in the procurement.
"One option is that the consortium created obtains the licence to produce Patria armored vehicles in Estonia, to create the supply chain with designing necessary modifications and guaranteeing the life cycle in Estonia," Ränisoo said. According to him this would mean intense negiotiation with Patria and the other countries involved.
"But if this turns out to be too expensive an option exists under which the Estonian consortium will themselves develop a 6x6 armor according to the needs of the state. The Estonian defense industry has the necessary competence," he emphasized.
According to ERR, the driving force behind the platform is Milrem AS, joined by AS Baltic Marine Group, Cybernetica AS, Baltflex AS, OÜ Nordic Armoury, OÜ Bristol Trust, Merrem Tööstusplast OÜ, Heavy Industries Estonia OÜ, Toci OÜ and Torm Metall OÜ. The platform is open to other Estonian industrial establishments.
In a joint statement, the companies write that they wish to keep at least 70 percent of the supply chain in Estonia, thus ensuring maintenance of employment and creating added-value jobs.
ERR was not able to speak to Milrem head Kuldar Väärsi, but the spokesperson of the company hinted that preparations for participating in the procurement are at an advanced stage and there is an actual vehicle that the consortium wishes to showcase along with the calculations regarding the project and investments.
EKTL chief executive said that receiving a hundred or more infantry transport vehicles that will remain at EDF's disposal for 30-40 years through the public procurement will mean high costs as the price of one vehicle will be in the six figures.
"For 30-40 years, a hundred vehicles will need to be maintained, repaired, enhanced, their life cycle supported. Of course they need to be assembled somewhere. We are talking about large amounts of money. Maintaining the life cycle in the course of 30-40 years will mean another price in the seven figures," Ränisoo said.
"When i was studying in the Finnish military academy, this was presented as an armored truck that has to take ten fighters to a battlefield and later bring them back. This is feasible for the Estonian industry, we should not have to make it more complex than that," he added.
The Centre for Defence Investment has taken a favorable attitude toward the plans. "We approve of this," the director of the centre Kusti Salm told ERR. "As a precondition set together with Latvia, local defense industries should be be involved in the project prominently. In addition to that, we have asked Patria to make a concrete proposal on how to involve the Estonian defense industry," Salm said.
"At the same time, this is still the introductory phase of the project and we are progressing step by step. Our goal is to get a compliant platform as affordable as possible."
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Editor: Anders Nõmm