The U.S. will allow Estonia to buy six M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers and related equipment for an estimated cost of up to $500 million, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) confirmed on Friday. The weapons have been effectively used by the Ukrainian military.
The proposed sale will allow Estonia to modernize its armed forces, strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies, a statement said.
"Estonia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces," the statement added.
It denied it will alter the region's basic military balance.
.@StateDept authorizes a proposed Foreign Military Sale #FMS to #Estonia for their purchase of up to 6 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System #HIMARS Launchers & related equipment for an estimated cost of up to $500 million. #FMSUpdate – https://t.co/zhIQerNeWf pic.twitter.com/iOxnmMXZ8e— Political-Military Affairs, US Dept of State (@StateDeptPM) July 15, 2022
The DSCA said the move supports U.S. foreign and national security policy while improving the security of a NATO Ally. The sale will not cause any adverse impacts on U.S. defense readiness.
The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin and up to 30 representatives may need to travel to Estonia during the delivery, training, integration, and testing of the systems.
A HIMARS is a light rocket launcher mounted on a truck frame that is known for its long range and accuracy. In recent weeks, the Ukrainian army has been using the weapons to destroy Russian arms depots.
Head of the Estonian Defense Forces, Lt. General Martin Herem confirmed Estonia was looking to purchase multiple rocket launchers last week.
The sale is awaiting congressional approval.
On Friday, the State Department also approved a separate potential sale of medium-range air-to-air missiles and related equipment for NATO Ally Norway in a deal valued at up to $950 million, Reuters reported.
Poland, Latvia, Lithuania also want HIMARS
Latvia and Lithuania also plan to jointly acquire HIMARS along with Estonia, Kusti Salm, Ministry of Defense permanent secretary, told Saturday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".
"This is a Baltic cooperation project. The Baltic defense ministers have agreed that the multiple missile system will be purchased jointly. A cooperation agreement has been signed for this. The idea is that we will all use the same system. Estonia got the go-ahead, but I am absolutely convinced that Latvia and Lithuania will too," he said.
Poland is also planning to buy an additional 500 HIMARS, AK reported.
It is hoped the HIMARS will be in use in Estonia within the next two years.
U.S. to partly pay for weapons
Speaking to the newspaper Postimees (link in English), Lieutenant Colonel in reserve and MP Leo Kunnas (EKRE) said Estonia will not pay all of the $500 million price tag itself.
The rocket launchers will be purchased in cooperation with the Americans and the U.S. will pay most of the amount.
"These are U.S.-led cooperation projects and this is how their military aid projects work – the sum is an indicator but the production will come from their own industry," he said.
"All three Baltic states will probably receive six launchers each which will be largely paid for by the U.S. The cost of the contract will also depend on how much ammunition is procured," Kunnas said.
Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) told the paper Estonia's share of financing would come from the state budget. "We have the funds allocated by the state budget strategy; there is no question about it," he assured.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add comments from Kusti Salm, Leo Kunnas and Kalle Laanet.
Editor: Helen Wright