Estonia amends 10-year defense plan to sharply increase ammunition stocks

Combat shooting in Rutja.
Combat shooting in Rutja. Source:

With the renewal of the National Defense Development Plan (RKAK), Estonia is increasing armament by acquiring new weapon systems and a large quantity of ammunition.

"Our security situation has changed. The escalation of the Ukrainian conflict into a full-scale war is also forcing us to revise the National Defense Development Plan, which was initially approved at the end of 2021," Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said during a press conference on Friday.

Kusti Salm, permanent secretary of the defense ministry, said that the government approved the development plan on Thursday, which was then presented to the opposition parties, who also supported it.

Pevkur noted that the Riigikogu has already decided to increase Estonia's defense spending to 3 percent of GDP, which covers the cost of hosting allies as well.

The minister said the lessons of the Ukrainian war must be incorporated into Estonia's defense readiness, which is also one of the objectives of the renewal of the development plan.

Ammunition, ammunition, ammunition!

One of the major components of the renewal of the development plan is to increase the EDF's armament, particularly its ammunition stocks.

In addition to the €1.3 billion already authorized by the government last year, the renewal of the development plan and an increase in the defense budget will bring an additional €1 billion to the budget specifically for ammunition.

During a press conference on Friday, Gen. Martin Herem, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), emphasized the importance of ammunition stocks: "What the EDF needs, before air defense and tanks, is ammunition. After that comes ammunition again, and only then all these beautiful weapons systems, including the dream of every defense commander: a tank battalion."

In addition to the tank battalion, the division and brigade drone countermeasures, the division's pioneering ability, JISTAR (joint intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition & reconnaissance), various naval sensors and extended communication solutions, as well as underwater surveillance and the establishment of an additional brigade, were among the things excluded from the renewed development plan, according to the EDF slides (link in Estonian).

Minister Pevkur said that the renewal of the development plan entails increasing the ability to influence the enemy from a distance, increasing the number of EDF soldiers to 44,000 and strengthening air defense.

The development plan also implements decisions made in the past, including the conversion of the 2nd infantry brigade to armored vehicles, the arming of anti-ship missiles and anti-ship mines, the formation of a multi-missile launcher unit with a regional firing range, the formation of intelligence battalions, and the formation of an additional medium-range air defense unit. A wheeled mobile artillery battalion and a reconnaissance battalion will be established as new units.

Herem explained that the reconnaissance battalion of the division will rely on technical reconnaissance, which will include imagery from satellites and drones, signals intelligence (SIGINT), as well as conventional reconnaissance on the ground.

"Of course, all of these weapons systems pose a manpower challenge. I can't say that we are struggling with it right now, but it's a challenge," Herem said.

Integration of allies must act as an additional deterrent

The 10-year development plan estimates that hosting allies will cost between €250 and €260 million. Estonia anticipates receiving €200 million in NATO co-financing.

Salm explained that in exchange for the cost of hosting the allies, Estonia will build military bases, new warehouses and other facilities essential to their presence here.

"However, the primary objective is to integrate them into our defense forces in order to send Russia a message of deterrence regarding the allies' actual participation in Estonia's defense, training to come here and prepositioning of their equipment in Estonia," Salm emphasized.

Where does the money go?

The military defense component of the development plan over the period 2022-2031 exceeds €13,4 billion.

The renewal of the the plan will result in a rise in defense expenditure from 2 to 3 percent of GDP, an increase of €5.4 billion.

Salm said at the press conference that according to the plan, 54 cents of each euro allocated to the EDF will be spent on investments, such as ammunition and armaments. "This will strengthen our defense forces and make us stronger," he said.

Salm also highlighted the increase in long-range fire capability, which includes the procurement of another 18 K9 self-propelled howitzers in addition to 18 already in possession, as well as HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and kamikaze drones.

K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer. Source:

The merger of the fleets of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the navy, including the vessels, radars, sailors and communication systems of both, was also one of the decisions made last year to enhance Estonia's defense capabilities.

Also, funding will be increased to retain defense personnel and motivate conscripts and volunteers.

As a result of the war in Ukraine, the importance of the reserve army has increased, and in order to maintain its defensive capabilities, the number of soldiers participating in exercises is being doubled; for example, this year, 30,000 reserve soldiers are participating in various reserve training exercises.

Salm said the Ministry of Defense also wants to improve internal efficiency and, as part of this, will attempt to transfer all non-military responsibilities to civilian services within the next decade.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Kristina Kersa

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