Defense Forces' new Rahe automatic rifle to make debut in Mali

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Defense Forces unveil new Rahe 20 automatic weapon. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonian Defense Forces' new R20 Rahe assault rifles will find their first use in action in Mali, Africa, where a new squad of troops will arrive before Christmas.

The first Rahe ("Hail") automatic rifles will be loaded up for travel to Mali, Africa, where the Estonian mission platoon will substitute in a new squad before year's end. This will be the first real action the Lewis Machine and Tool Company produced firearms will get as the default weapon of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF)

"The Scouts battalion has gone through training with the new weapons and are generally pleased," said EDF Chief of Ordnance Maj. Risto Pärtel.

"There are no large problems in actuality. If someone breaks the sight's screw, that does not mean the sight is no good," Pärtel told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Thursday.

The first 1,500 rifles arrived in Estonia in July. Recently, another 4,000 arrived that will be distributed among units by the new year.

"Another shipment of automatic rifles arrived in late-November and those are meant for conscripts that will join the service now," Pärtel added.

The next shipments will aim to replace the current Galil and AK-4 rifles by 2022.

The armament category manager for the Estonian Center for Defense Investment Ramil Lipp said the shipments could be delayed just a little, but not too much.

The weapons will be used by the Scout Battalion. Later, more will be acquired for the conscripts of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades and professional members of the Defense Forces and Defense Allies.

The LMT R-20 Rahe automatic rifle is now the default EDF weapon. Stocks started to arrive in Estonia in early summer after a lengthy procurement process, and were introduced first to regular troops during the summer, as priority.

An additional procurement for optical sights and bipods has been announced.

Operation Barkhane in Mali, Africa

Estonia is contributing to the French counter-insurgency Operation Barkhane, principally with an infantry platoon. In November 2019, Estonia increased its Operation Barkhane troop deployment to 95 soldiers.

The operation aims to support the fight against Islamic extremismin the five countries of the Sahel region (Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, as well as Mali itself). The operation also aims to prevent illegal immigration and human trafficking in Europe.

Estonia is also contributing to Takuba, a special forces unit in Mali, which provides advice, assistance and training in the organization of operations within the Malian Armed Forces.

While Operation Barkhane is French-led, the EU as a whole also has a presence in Mali, and the rationale according to defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) is that EDF personnel being involved in protecting the EU's southern borders comes in return for NATO involvement in defending the union's eastern frontier, via ground troops at Tapa and air policing at Ämari.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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