The Ministry of Defense has rolled out a proposal to five municipalities in the North and West of Estonia, to sound out the possibilities of a planned munitions-producing industrial area, which could when completed create around 100 new jobs, across two or three different firms.
Output would be exported as well as sold to domestic defense forces.
As reported by ERR News in August, while there is interest in the production of ammunition from businesses both from abroad and at home, it may take several years for this to come to fruition.
In this initial step, five potential sites have been identified within the municipalities of Lääne-Harju, West of Tallinn, Rakvere, around 100km East of Tallinn and in Lääne-Viru County, Viru-Nigula, also in Lääne-Viru County, Lüganuse, Ida-Viru County, and in the City of Pärnu.
Indrek Sirp, special advisor for defense industry development at the ministry, said: "The present-day security situation requires states to put in place additional investments into their national defense and their defense industry.
"When the [Reform-Eesti 200-SDE] coalition agreement [was signed], the decision was made to create a defense industrial park and ammunition production facility in Estonia, and to achieve this the state is taking additional steps to support the development of the local defense industry, plus it has started to negotiate with local municipalities regarding possible locations."
"We would like to know the opinion of these local authorities on the suitability of the industrial park and the suggested sites. Additionally, we need to discuss the appropriate types of planning and how the proposed industrial park would fit in with the local government's plans," Sirp went on.
The Ministry of Defense made an initial analysis of possible locations in cooperation with the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) and the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture, which resulted in the identification of the five sites.
Sirp said the next step would be to showcase these to the municipalities in question; key indicators include the planned facilities land area, the size of the hazardous zone, logistics and energy connections in the vicinity, as well as the proximity of available local labor.
Kalev Koidumäe, CEO of the Estonian Defense and Aerospace Industry Association (Kaitsetööstuse liit), confirmed that entrepreneurs are interested in ammunition production.
At the same time, Koidumäe noted that long-term contracts are important, and that Estonia's own ammunition needs are not sufficient for a production site of the scale planned to pay for itself from domestic consumption alone – making exports key.
The planned park would be 50-100 ha in area, plus an encircling danger zone.
It would also need to be located sufficiently close to a rail line and/or commercial port.
Sirp said that the project once underway would take two to two-and-a-half years to complete, adding that "we want to move as quickly as possible on this."
Lines in the sand on exactly what type of ammunition would be produced have not been drawn, he added, noting that it could constitute the type of ammo currently in very high demand in Ukraine – mortar rounds or large-caliber artillery shells – but other options might include precision-guided munitions.
"The prevailing attitude is that this could be ammunition that can be produced and sold on a market basis not only in Estonia, but also more broadly," he said.
"This is what we're trying to figure out together with business – whose perspective would see Estonia as a country where the [munitions] industry is located," he went on.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi