Estonia hopes to bring Latvia on board with coastal defense procurement

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Polish missile systems in Estonia for Exercise Spring Storm last year. Source: Ardi Hallismaa / EDF

Estonia hopes to bring its southern neighbor Latvia on board in coastal defense systems procurement in future. Estonia's long coastline is largely currently unprotected, a weakness which several experts have deemed on of the country's major military shortcomings.

As a result, Estonia is in any case preparing to procure coastal defense short-to-mid-range missile systems, as well as up-to-date sea mines, the latter being relatively cost-effective.

Procurement plans were presented before the Riigikogu's nationald efense committee, whos chair, Enn Eesmaa (Center), said the area had seen interest from defense companies, with some of these likely being promising.

Asko Kivinuk, head of the Defense Investment Center (RKIK), the body tasked with the procurement, said of progress so far that: "We have to date completed the task of outlining the exact military needs [facing Estonia] and conducted a thorough market survey, all of which involved all manufacturers of the relevant missile systems."

"The RKIK is preparing the procurement of anti-ship missiles in accordance with the development plan of the Ministry of Defense," Kivinuk, told ERR.

Tuesday also saw a Riigikogu debate, featuring head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, who noted the importance of coastal missiles, including their use against enemy sea vessels, were key to all three Baltic States and would help cover the arrival of NATO allied personnel.

Lt. Gen. Herem said: "Multi-barreled missile systems with a range of 300 km plus would allow the three Baltic states to support combat operations on each other's territories, as well as to influence military capabilities which could prevent the arrival of allies."

Estonia's coastline is close to 4,000 km long, taking to account the many offshore islands, compared with a little more than one tenth that for Latvia (a little under 500 km). Lithuania's coastline is just 100 km long, about two-thirds of it made up of the Curonian Spit.

The 2022-2025 defense plan approved by defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) also comprehensively covers coastal defenses.

As for timing, with or without Latvia, Enn Eesmaa said that roughly within that time-frame would be attempted, rather than procurement being dragged out for years.

Independent defense portal Defense News last October reported a 24-36-month turnaround time.

One source did however tell ERR's online news in Estonian that joint procurement with Latvia, also in the EU and NATO, could be hindered by differing levels of development in defensive capabilities, in turn causing differing priorities in weapons procurement.

Enn Eesmaa added that potential systems would be preferred from those in use by other NATO allies.

Asko Kivinuk said €46 million is earmarked for the coastal defenses procurement. 

"Before moving forward with the procurement, we are looking for opportunities for joint procurement with regional partners," he added.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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