Growing need for capacity, the presence of NATO allies and increasingly more complex weapons systems are putting pressure on Estonia's defense sector and the three or four private companies which conduct maintenance work, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Sunday night. The state is investing €200 million over the next decade, to improve the situation.
The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) uses the Swedish-made CV90 tracked combat vehicle, which is equipped with a 40 mm Bofors autocannon.
Tarmo Ränisoo, head of the Estonian Defense Industry Association (Kaitsetööstuse liit) told AK that: "One of the largest contracts that has been concluded recently is the repair and maintenance of CV90s in Võru, under the direction of [private sector firm] Milworks. This type of extensive maintenance is being carried out all over Estonia."
Meanwhile Ivar Janson, head of the states Center for Defense Investment (RKIK) said: "With the CV 90, we have a contract with an armored vehicle manufacturer who has solved it via subcontracting, with the main armament being removed before the repairs are sent,".
Other EDF equipment cannot so easily be repaired however. For instance, the South Korean-made K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer requires being taken to a workshop whole – the turret cannot be easily removed since it is an integral part of the whole.
Similarly, equipment brought to Estonia by its NATO allies, including the British Army, which heads up the battlegroup based at Tapa, has to be sent out of country altogether, to make repairs
"During that time, it's out of commission totally as there is really no stockpile of armor," Janson said.
The EDF's 1st Brigade repair and maintenance main workshop is also at Tapa, though capacity will need to be double in the near future, at the same time as weapons systems get more sophisticated, the RKIK says.
"In fact, we do not have partners who can provide the necessary amount of service," Janson went on.
Additionally, the relevant legislation in repair work, the Weapons Act, stipulates facilities and their safety requirements which are often not to be found in Estonia itself, AK reported.
This means that, for instance, the EDF's Finnish-made Patria Pasi armored personnel carrier (pictured) must have its 12.7 mm NSV machine gun removed before being taken to the workshop, while the CV90 canon-removal is more complex.
The €200 million being set aside by the state is aimed more at in-country work, AK reported.
Tarmo Ränisoo said that: "There are companies which have already incurred these costs, whose investments are ready to provide these services on our territory today, in accordance with the Weapons Act. There are also those companies that want to do so but who have to take into account that this means additional investment,"
The EDF's 1st Infantry Brigade is largely mechanized, heavy infantry, while the 2nd brigade is in the process of moving towards a similar set-up.
Estonia's long-term defense doctrine also calls for artillery – hence the K9 procurement, as well as coastal defense missile systems and sea mines.
NATO allies plug the gaps with, for instance, heavy armor (in the case of the British and French army Challenger and Leclerc tanks) and fast jets (based at Ämari, a role currently held by the Italian air force). U.S. special forces personnel are thought to have been active in Estonia in recent months in training and other activity, while a large-scale U.S. 82nd Airborne Division/British Parachute Regiment night jump took place over Järva County earlier this year.
Estonia exceeds the 2 percent contribution that NATO sets as a membership requirement (at 2.3 percent) and €750 million was earmarked for defense in the 2022 state budget bill, currently being processed at the Riigikogu.
Editor: Andrew Whyte