EDF chief: Additional defense spending could focus on quickest results

EDF commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem.
EDF commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) commander Lieutenant General Martin Herem says that additions to the national defense budget should go towards those capabilities which can be rapidly developed, including short-range air defense systems and anti-tank weaponry.

The purchase of drones could also go ahead if spending was boosted further still, Herem said.

This year's state budget allows for €748 million on defense spending, while in January (the state budget for a given year passes the preceding December – ed.) the government opted to add €340 million over a four-year period, for military spend.

The bulk of this (€300 million) is slated for ammunition.

Magnus-Valdemar Saar, director of the state's Center for Defense Investment (RKK), says that half of the received funds had already been allocated to contracts.

"In this context, indirect fire weapons have primarily not yet been procured, the same with mortars and artillery. There are also no contracts for infrastructure development," Saar said, adding that most of the ammunition already ordered will arrive by the end of next year.

Russia's attack on Ukraine has encouraged politicians to discuss the need for extra money for national defense. EDF commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem says that he would base the spending on how quickly items can be purchased, but also on NATO's capacity, and the experience gained from Ukraine.

The first 100 million euros would go on short-range air defense, if it were down to Herem.

Herem said: "It's one way or another if this is [portable air defense systems] Stinger, Grom or Mistral, as these could be procured and in use in two years."

"Plus with that number, we would be able to at the minimum inflict damage significantly on such helicopter and airborne maneuvers as have happened in Ukraine," he continued.

Stinger missile firing exercise at Rutja, March 10 2022. Source: EDF/ Allar Vaha

Estonia bought its first Mistrals in 2007. These are able to hit targets up to an altitude of 5km. Mistral is currently in the hands of primary EDF units, while, according to Herem, they could also be provided to the volunteer Defense League's (Kaitseliit) territorial forces. The Defense League also particularly requires anti-tank weapons, Herem says.

He said: "We would need the Spike LR systems we have today in both the infantry brigades, and we would need the Javelins we have today for both brigades and for the territorial defense."

There is also a need for Spanish-made Instalaza disposable grenade launchers, he said.

"These all form different layers, as it were, and make it very complicated to resist this type of anti-tank defense," he went on.

Herem: Static sensors are preferable to drones

The third of the three hundred million euros could be slated primarily on weapons which have a range in excess of 20km, Herem said.

"We already have K9 self-propelled howitzers in the current procurement. We also hope to sign a contract for a multi-rocket launcher system (MLRS) LINK this year. This would have a range of over 300km," Herem said.

Magnus-Valdemar Saar said that if all goes well, Estonia will have a large number of MLRS systems by the end of 2024. At present, the state is looking at the U.S.-made weapons produced by Lockheed Martin, which could be purchased by a so-called state-to-state transaction.

RKK director Magnus-Valdemar Saar. Source: Ministry of Defense

"We are trying to work together with the Americans, and we are also counting on their funding. If that doesn't work out, we are prepared to purchase the missiles on the open market," Saar went on.

Lt. Gen. Herem noted that so-called "Kamikaze" drones could be considered a type of indirect fire, and could be procured.

"These things are also something which could be carried out in two-to-three years and could be very necessary," he said.

Herem also said that if an extra hundred million euros were added to defense spending, he would improve the EDF's situational awareness. It would certainly utilize night surveillance equipment, and could purchase more of this.

"We probably can't buy it for every soldier. However, we cam see today and we were aware in the past that Russia, for example, has a rather poor night-time capability; and we should take advantage of that," Herem said.

He added that he would also invest in satellite intelligence by purchasing more satellite imagery and terrestrial sensors.

"These are, for instance, ordinary traffic cameras," he said.

"However, they could also be other things that record vibrations, for example, and 'say' what has passed you by," he continued.

"Then we would not need to send drones on 20km distances, which would be detectable or susceptible to downing," he continued.

Estonia should also be prepared for a larger number of volunteer fighters, Herem added.

He said: "We could boost the territorial defense numbers by purchasing equipment on their behalf and utilizing it either to supply people joining the Defense League, or to supply volunteers in times of danger or conflict."

EDF chief: Effects of the war not yet translated to rising defense equipment prices

Herem added that he does not yet know if the defense budget will grow in reality. He has talked about the same topics as those above, in the past, he said. However, he is now doing this with an amplified voice as the debate over rising national defense spending gains momentum.

While several countries have said they will raise defense spending, neither ammunition nor armaments have yet risen significantly in price.

However, the price tags for the EDF infrastructure investments are higher than expected.

Magnus-Valdemar Saar said: "This problem we have in the transport market and also in the availability of raw materials is playing out a lot. The pandemic is also still influencing things."

He added that in the near future the effects of the war in Ukraine may also make themselves known in the prices.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: