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Estonia seeking replacement for Spain's air defense systems

Spain's NASAMS air defense system at Ämari Air Base.
Spain's NASAMS air defense system at Ämari Air Base. Source: Ilja Korjukin/Kaitsevägi

Estonia is seeking a replacement for Spain's NASAMS air defense systems after their extended rotation came to an end and NATO members have not offered an immediate replacement.

Spain was the first NATO country to send its medium-range air defense systems NASAMS to Estonia in the spring based on a bilateral agreement. The deployment was extended until the end of the year, but now the Spanish have left.

At the NATO Vilnius summit in the summer, a decision was taken to start a permanent rotation of air defense systems similar to the Baltic air policing unit. But this has not yet started.

Estonia has purchased Iris-T medium-range air defense which will arrive in 2025.

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) told Friday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" a temporary replacement is being sought to patch the gap.

Hanno Pevkur. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"I've spoken to the Spanish minister – they're considering coming back. But there is no final decision at the moment. Likewise, we are talking to Saceur – the Commander-in-Chief of the European Forces – who could be there until our own system arrives," said Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform).

Europe has given its free anti-aircraft stocks to Ukraine, Pevkur said.

"The Germans have ordered Iris[-Ts] themselves, and in fact, the very first Iris systems that were completed by the Germans were also sent to Ukraine. /.../ If it is possible, those who have systems to send to the eastern flank will certainly do so," said Pevkur.

Finland's NASAMS have also participated in exercises. But Pevkur said, as the country is a new member of NATO, there is an agreement to keep its forces at home

Tanel Lelov. Source: ERR

Finnish NASAMS has participated in exercises in Estonia. However, the minister said there is an agreement that, as a new member of NATO, Finland will keep its forces at home while there are no other allied forces there.

The Estonian Defense Forces have hosted air defense systems from most of the alliance's allies during previous military exercises, Lieutenant Colonel Tanel Lelov, head of the air defense department of the division headquarters, told AK.

"If the mission does not go ahead, it will not directly affect anything. Before the Spaniards, there were no air defense systems on the ground in Estonia either. Our short-range air defense is ready to carry out the same tasks. Long-range air defense components are a capability gap that we will have to fill with alternative means until our systems arrive," Lelov said.

Spain's NASAMs arrived in Estonia in April and the deployment was extended in August.

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Editor: Meril Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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