Lithuania has committed to buy High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Switchblade loitering munitions and Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) amid the conflict in Ukraine.
The purchases are part of an uplift in Lithuania’s defence spending, from $1.1bn in 2018 to $1.5bn in 2022, driven by a need to achieve “military preparedness in the face of a potential threat from Russia,” says William Davies, associate analyst at GlobalData.
HIMARS systems and Switchblade loitering munitions have both seen extensive use in Ukraine, with HIMARS used to accurately target Russian troops and artillery, demonstrating greater range and accuracy than any other Ukrainian artillery.
This purchase commitment follows moves by both Latvia and Poland to procure the same systems in recent months. “The purchase of HIMARS by Baltic countries in recent months demonstrates that these countries see ranged strike capabilities as critical to ongoing defence,” says Davies.
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HIMARS systems are intended to engage and defeat artillery and air defence concentrations, as well as support troop and supply concentrations. The system launches its weapons and moves away from the area at high speed before enemy forces locate the launch site.
Switchblade loitering munitions, produced by AeroVironment, have been supplied by the US throughout the conflict, and have provided Ukraine with the capability to autonomously target Russian troops and provide air cover for advancing Ukrainian forces, in addition to local Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
“The Switchblades’ affordability is also likely to be an attractive option as it will provide air to ground capabilities at a lower cost than alternatives,” says Davies.
The missile system allows operators to track and strike non-line-of-sight targets and light-armoured vehicles with lethality, and can stay airborne for more than 40 minutes after being launched.
The JLTV family of vehicles includes general purpose, heavy guns carrier, utility, and close combat weapons carrier variants designed to provide protected, sustained and networked mobility. The conflict in Ukraine has demonstrated the utility of a heavily armed and highly mobile off-road vehicle, and the JLTV offers the protection of a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle with the small and nimble frame of a four-by-four off-road vehicle.
Funding is also earmarked to enhance border security and make more key purchases – including Black Hawk helicopters – and is also aimed at backfilling Lithuanian donations of military equipment to Ukraine, which include M113 armoured vehicles as well as armoured trucks.