Tank battalion and surveillance left out of Estonia's national defense plan

Danish Leopard 2A7 tanks taking part in a live fire exercise in Nõva, Estonia.
Danish Leopard 2A7 tanks taking part in a live fire exercise in Nõva, Estonia. Source: EDF Headquarters / mil.ee

Updates to Estonia's National Defense Development Plan (RKAK) will see the army's firepower increase as Estonia procures new weapons systems and more ammunition. At the same time, several proposals by EDF Commander Gen. Martin Herem did not make the cut due to budget constraints.

Maj. Taavi Karotamm, head of the EDF Headquarters' press office, told ERR that developing certain capabilities has been put on hold as recent and future defense spending concentrates on priority fields.

"Nevertheless, the capacities that did not recently make the cut are important and necessary, and we will look for ways to secure them as resources become available or in cooperation with allies. It is possible to postpone developing certain capacity because of allied support. We prioritized capabilities we need to have ourselves, where relying on allies would be insensible or impossible," Maj. Karotamm said.

Follows a list of the EDF commander's national defense development proposals that were left out of the current budget.

The army's spokesperson said that the items on the list are in no particular order.

An EDF member operating a drone. Source: EDF Headquarters / mil.ee

Division (high-level) and brigade drone defense

Drone defense capabilities would make it possible to counter enemy drone attacks more effectively. This would include systems used to detect and interfere with drone operations.

That specific drone defense capabilities were left out of current defense plans does not mean the EDF lacks means to counter drones. Unmanned aircraft can be destroyed using existing systems, whether small arms or anti-aircraft guns.

Division engineers

One of the EDF commander's proposals was to create an additional engineering battalion to increase units' protection, their ability to cover ground and the capacity of throwing up obstacles.

Its makeup would have largely mirrored that of existing engineer units.

Allies serving in Estonia and allied cooperation has already improved Estonia's engineering capabilities in the form of engineering tools and machinery, which capacity is set to be retained in the future.

Joint Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (JISTAR)

JISTAR stands for detection and analysis of targets using various land, air, naval, cyber and other systems to facilitate making decisions, including attacks on target, based on integrated intelligence and surveillance info. The capability would lend expediency, integration and synchronicity to decision-making.

Estonia already has a part of capabilities that would have to be developed as part of JISTAR. Allies can offer support in the form of various sensors, threat awareness and analysis.

EDF armored vehicle-launched bridge. Source: EDF Headquarters / mil.ee

Naval sensors and expanded communications solutions

Various naval sensors and expanded comms help to boost situational awareness at sea through technological, software and staff developments.

Developing relevant capacity would give Estonia a better overview of its sea territory. This overview is today ensured through various existing systems, partners and allies.

Underwater surveillance

Underwater surveillance would help improve situational awareness under the waves, including as concerns submarine activity.

Estonia can survey the sea under its surface using its mine hunters as well as by sharing in allied capabilities.

Tank battalion

Creating a tank battalion would boost the EDF's armor capabilities and firepower. A tank battalion would add considerable offensive capacity.

However, the cost of creating a tank battalion is not in line with its projected battlefield effectiveness today. That is why it is more useful to invest these sums in developing other capabilities and rely on allied tank units stationed in Estonia. Tank units of various sizes have been attached to the allied battle group headed up by the U.K. in Estonia.

Additional brigade

Adding another mechanized infantry brigade would help boost the EDF's armored maneuver capacity and firepower. A new brigade would contribute plenty to both defensive and offensive capacity.

But in addition to recruiting and training additional personnel, a brand new brigade would require new weaponry and machinery all of which would need to be maintained. That is why it is currently more rational to rely on allied integration and rotation based on their ability to increase their presence up to a brigade-sized unit.

This approach is included in current plans, and cooperation is underway with the U.K. to create readiness to dispatch an additional brigade as its units have served in the allied battle group in Estonia and know the local circumstances. Integrating an allied brigade command element in the chain of command of the Estonian division was practiced at the Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) training exercise.

Defense spending to reach 3 percent of GDP

The government last week approved updates to the 2022-2031 National Defense Development Plan (RKAK) that execute the previously made decision to increase Estonia's defense spending to 3 percent of its GDP.

The military portion of RKAK amounts to €13.4 billion in 2022-2031, with an additional €257 million earmarked for hosting allied units.

The updates follow the altered security situation caused by Russia's aggression in Ukraine and the EDF commander's advice for national defense development.

"Realistic planning of military national defense helps ensure Estonia's defense through existing and practicable means. While the updates result in defense spending reaching 3 percent of GDP, effective deterrence and defense are provided by real capacity that we can afford to maintain. The current plan ensures development of just such real capacity. Funding reaching 3 percent can help us increase and improve the EDF's firepower both in terms of quality, quantity and entirely new capabilities," Maj. Karotamm said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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