Latvia, Estonia agree on joint airspace protection

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Latvia and Estonia will jointly purchase anti-air defense systems IRIS-T, creating a new “Livonia Shield” for Latvian and Estonian airspace protection, Latvian Defense Minister Ināra Murniece (National Alliance) and Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said at a press conference Sunday, May 21.

According to what is currently planned, the supply of IRIS-T anti-air defense systems could start in 2025. Mūrniece also said that in 2024, during the renovation of Estonia's Ämari Air Base, NATO air patrol mission combat planes and all support personnel will be deployed at the Lielvārde Air Force Base in Latvia.

It is planned to purchase anti-air protection systems from the German company Diehl Defence.

“To date, our National Armed Forces have developed short-range antiaircraft defenses. Today, Latvia and Estonia are taking the next step to purchase a medium-range anti-air defense system that will allow the best possible protection of the entire territory of Latvia, our citizens, as well as civil and military infrastructure. The system chosen is one of the most advanced systems of medium range in the world and is militarily reliable. [..] The choice of the specific system is a military decision based on the conclusions of the military experts in Latvia and Estonia,” Defense Minister Mūrniece said in the press conference.

“This project is a never-before-experienced success story of Estonian and Latvian defense cooperation. It is also historically the largest joint procurement of Estonia and Latvia,” said the Estonian Defense Minister Pevkur.

As Mūrniece said at the press conference, this will be the largest military procurement following the restoration of Latvia's independence. The choice of this anti-air defense system is an important step for Latvia and NATO, as it is also compatible with other NATO's widely used anti-air defense and command control systems.

Given that negotiations are still ongoing with a potential system supplier, the Ministry of Defense is not yet able to disclose information on the price of these systems, their number, or any other procurement details.

Work on the details of the contract will continue in the coming months. According to what is currently planned, the supply of systems could start in 2025. Until then, Latvia still needs to do a great deal of work with training staff and improving infrastructure so that the National Armed Forces are ready to use and maintain them.

Six companies initially submitted tenders in this procurement, but negotiations are ongoing with one, said the Estonian Defense Minister.

As the Commander of the National Armed Forces (NBS) Leonīds Kalniņš said, the system has proven effective against Russian aircraft in the war in Ukraine. It is effective against combat planes, helicopters, unmanned aircraft and winged missiles, and can destroy close-range ballistic missiles.

In addition, the ministers confirmed that during the refurbishment of Estonia's Amari airbase in 2024, the planes of NATO's Baltic air patrol would instead by stationed at Lielvārde airbase in Latvia. The upgrading work at Amari is expected to take up to eight months. 


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