Estonia set to purchase loitering munitions

On Saturday, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said, that in light of Russia's aggression, Estonia is set to procure large quantities of loitering munitions (also known as suicide or kamikaze drones). The weapons will significantly enhance Estonia's indirect fire capabilities with the procurement set to be one of the country's most expensive in relation to defense and security.

"It is impossible to overestimate the importance of indirect fire in the development of Estonia's defense capabilities. Russia, the aggressor state, has inflicted most of its destruction in Ukraine via indirect fire strikes," said Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform), who presented the issue to the cabinet on Thursday.

The procurement, which is set to go ahead in the near future, means that the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) will have the capability to attack the enemy from longer distances, Pevkur said.

Indirect fire involves firing a projectile without relying on a direct line of site to the target. Loitering drones are one form of indirect fire weapons systems, as are multiple rocket launchers, field artillery and mortars.

One of the combat objectives of using indirect fire is to attack the enemy's own indirect fire systems and units.

According to Pevkur, the procurement, which is in its final stages, is one of Estonia's largest ever defense projects. However, as the process is still ongoing, he said that it would not be reasonable to specify the precise financial cost at this stage.

After an in-depth market study was carried out last year, the contract for producing the weapons systems will be awarded in the first quarter of 2023, with the majority of the deliveries set to reach Estonia in 2024, the Ministry of Defense said.

The EDF's indirect fire capabilities will consist of mortars of different calibers in its maneuver units, while both of its infantry brigades have artillery battalions. In 2024-25, a multiple rocket launcher and loitering drone munitions unit /air assault battery) will also be established to add to this. 

Estonia concluded the procurement of HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems with the USA in December 2022. The artillery battalions within the infantry brigades will also be growing in the next few years when the addition of 12 K9 Thunder self-propelled artillery units will strengthen both battalions to 18 systems.

In December, Estonia signed a contract worth over €200 million to buy six HIMARS multiple rocket launcher systems from the United States. The addition of South Korean-made K9 Thunder Self-propelled howitzers is also set to increase the strength of the EDF's artillery battalion over the next few years.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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