Estonia hopes to receive €200 million from US for air defense development

NASAMS II anti-aircraft missile launcher at a Finnish defense forces parade in 2017.
NASAMS II anti-aircraft missile launcher at a Finnish defense forces parade in 2017. Source: Wikimedia Commons/MKFI

The Ministry of Defense is requesting for €200 million in support from the United States for four years to develop air defenses in Estonia.

"We are applying for a little under €200 million until 2025 to strengthen air defenses in the region with our allies. And all signs point to the next [U.S.] administration not changing their position on the topic - to strenghten the protection of European allies, if they themselves contribute as well," said defense ministry chancellor Kristjan Prikk on Vikerraadio's "Välistund" on Monday.

He said that while it is very important for U.S. foreign policy who the next president is, the U.S. Congress has a critical role in financing decisions in American politics. "The Congress really has support for financing well-functioning allies and there are no signs of that changing. We are in good contact when it comes to air defenses, in both practice and financing," Prikk said.

The defense ministry chancellor said medium range air defenses have been considered one of the weak points of Estonia's security. At the same time, air defense is a field, where being too reliant on one or another element can lead to a skewed result. This is why the layered nature of air defense is discussed, where short range, medium range and long range defenses all play a crucial role, Prikk explained.

"We have to consider that we need different defense systems for the opponent's attack systems," the chancellor added.

According to Prikk, a minimum capacity medium range air defense system would cost over €200 million to develop and keeping it operational year-round would go for about a tenth of the acquiring fees.

"We are speaking of many activities when speaking of cooperation with the U.S. We first have to improve and strengthen the existing systems by developing sensors and management systems - supplemental radars and communications and management systems. And then we will create the option of being able to use allied medium range and long range air defense systems in this region and connect them with our military systems," Prikk said.

He explained that this would not mean additional allied bases in Estonia, but communications and management systems must be developed, capable of sharing information with allies in a way that they could do something, such as implementing air defense systems Patriot or NASAMS.

"Let us not forget that we are speaking of a system that covers the entirety of NATO and has allied planes connected as well, perhaps located quite far from our territory. They need information on what is happening here in our airspace to make decisions on guarding our airspace," the defense ministry chancellor said.

Prikk also noted that Estonia has received similar support before, including a €50 million support measure some years back. Next year's state budget has allocated €645 million for national defense, making up 2.3 percent of total GDP.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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