The Estonian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed its intent to procure a ‘significant quantity’ of loitering munitions in the near future.
This plan to acquire loitering munitions, that comes ‘as a consequence of Russian aggression’, was proposed by Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur in the government’s cabinet meeting on 16 February.
Pevkur said: “It is impossible to overestimate the importance of indirect fire in the development of Estonia’s defence capability, as aggressor nation Russia has caused destruction in Ukraine mostly with indirect fire strikes.”
Loitering munitions are being procured to increase the Estonian Armed Forces’ indirect firepower capabilities to attack the enemy forces from greater distances.
Pevkur has not specified the exact number of loitering munitions that are being procured, however, he claimed that the acquisition process is nearing completion.
An associated agreement is scheduled to be finalised in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.
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The MoD has already concluded a comprehensive market survey last year. The majority of the systems are expected to be delivered by 2024.
During the same cabinet meeting, Pevkur also provided details of other measures that are being taken to support the ‘Defence League’.
It involves increasing the number of territorial defence fighters from 9,500 to 20,000 by training, equipping, and staffing them by 2024.
The decision to double the land forces was taken by the Estonian government in summer last year, soon after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, and €30m has been spared for the same.
Approximately €132m has been allocated to cover equipment purchases for the land troops. It includes night vision equipment, thermal assets, combatant load-carrying systems, transport vehicles, and ammunition.
The associated tender process is being managed by the Centre for Defence Investment, with deliveries expected in the first half of this year. In 2023, nearly €7m will be used for training sessions.