Estonia will purchase Mistral anti-aircraft missiles in a five-country joint procurement deal along with France, Belgium, Cyprus, and Hungary.
A joint procurement of this size is rare in Europe. The terms will be negotiated by France as Mistrals are produced by French company MBDA.
"As a result, we will get the Mistrals to Estonia quicker, at a better price, and it will certainly increase cooperation with the French," said Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform), who met with the French company in Paris on Monday.
France also contributes troops to Estonia's NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup along with Denmark and the UK.
Estonia already has Mistrals but the weapon systems need to be updated and stocks increased.
"Our task and our wish is, first and foremost, to increase our capabilities, so we are acquiring both systems and missiles," the minister said.
He added that the lessons from Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine need to be learnt and "air defense is one of the things we must certainly improve".
Pevkur also said he was glad that NATO defense ministers reached an agreement last week to rotate air defenses which will better protect Estonia in the future.
The structure of the air defense system is multi-layered and Estonia wants to protect itself at every level, he said.
"We are nearing the end of the medium-altitude air defense procurement. We are currently in final negotiations with the German manufacturer Iris-T. Now the Mistrals will complement our existing Mistrals, [and] we are in the process of acquiring PIORUNs from Poland. So the Mistrals are primarily intended for our two brigades and the PIORUNs are intended to support territorial defense. Each thing in the right place, so that the various components of air defense are also guaranteed.," said Pevkur.
It is not yet known when the Mistrals will arrive in Estonia as it depends on the negotiations, Pevkur said. But it will take several years.
"Our message to them has been very clear — speed is of the essence in this procurement. Of course, so is the price," he said.
Estonia has previously entered into joint procurements with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Finland. This five-country deal is the largest so far.
The minister said buying weapons this way gives Estonia better deals on price and delivery time. He said NATO members carry out more joint procurements in the future.
More details about the deal will be announced in the future.
Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright