Defence Ministers representing 14 NATO member states and Finland have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI ) in Belgium to develop the European Sky Shield Initiative.

The multi-national initiative, led by Germany, is intended to strengthen Nato’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence.

Nato deputy secretary general Mircea Geoană said: “This commitment is even more crucial today, as we witness the ruthless and indiscriminate missile attacks by Russia in Ukraine, killing civilians and destroying critical infrastructure.

“In this context, I strongly welcome Germany’s leadership in launching the European Sky Shield Initiative.

“The new assets, fully interoperable and seamlessly integrated within the Nato air and missile defence, would significantly enhance our ability to defend the alliance from all air and missile threats.”

Under the programme, the European nations will jointly procure air defence equipment and missiles to form a common air and missile defence system.

The countries will focus on procuring air defence systems providing very short, short, medium, and long range defence, as well as missile and anti-drone defence systems for immediate and medium term.

Signatories including the UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, and the Netherlands will use interoperable off-the-shelf solutions to develop the defence system.

According to Nato, the multifaceted approach ‘offers a flexible and scalable way for nations to strengthen their deterrence and defence in an efficient and cost-effective way’.

Welcoming the initiative, Lithuanian National Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said: “Becoming a part of the initiative allows The Lithuanian Armed Forces to plan joint procurements with the Armed Forces of Germany.

“Out of the available air defence systems package, the very short range/anti-drone defence systems is the most relevant component to the Lithuanian Armed Forces.”