Pressured to present a strong military posture on Nato’s eastern flank, the Latvian Government has requested to buy six M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) among other supplementary equipment from the US Government in a deal worth $220m (€211m).

The foreign military sale includes 12 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Alternative Warhead (GMLRS-AW) munitions, which have a range exceeding 70km and delivers a 200-pound class fragmenting warhead, and ten M57 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) rounds, a unitary warhead reaching between 70-300km.

GlobalData intelligence tells us that Latvia’s defence budget is the lowest in the Baltic region as the company projects the nation’s spending to reach just shy of $1bn by 2027, while Estonia and Lithuania are expected to reach $1.3bn and £2.2bn respectively.

So, this means it is highly unlikely Latvia will ever seek to acquire major platforms or capabilities including fixed-wing combat aircraft, main battle tanks, or missile-equipped surface combatants in the same way as its neighbours, such as Lithuania, which recently ordered the Leopard 2 as its first ever fleet of MBTs.

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Plans to acquire medium-range air defence systems

However, Latvia is undeterred. Squeezed between its two Baltic neighbours, the country is still a critical space to secure, especially since Russia’s full-scale invasion of nearby Ukraine to the south-east.

This has prompted the Latvian Government to greatly expand its contributions to the collective missile defence policy, to which it subscribed at the Vilnius summit in June.

Since then, the country has rapidly expanded its missile defence systems (MDS) by collectively purchasing Iris-T medium-range missile systems alongside Estonia last month.

“Until now, only short-range air defence systems have been available for the Latvian National Armed Forces, but the IRIS-T [SML] system will enable effective and comprehensive defence within the medium range, and it is compatible with Nato systems, thus providing benefits not only to Latvia but to the entire region,” the Latvian Minister of Defence, Ināra Murniece stated.

HIMARS fit perfectly into Latvia’s medium-range MDS collection.

The system is the newest member in the Multiple Launch Rocket System family developed by the original equipment manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The MDS is operated by a crew of three: the driver, gunner and section chief. However, the computer-based fire control system enables a crew of two or a single soldier to load and unload the system.

The fire control system includes video, keyboard control, a gigabyte of programme storage and global positioning system. The fire control computer allows firing missions to be carried out in automatic or manual mode.

HIMARS are a versatile system capable of launching the entire MLRS family of munitions, including the extended-range GMLRS, the reduced-range practice rocket and all future variants, ATACMS, and the next-generation precision strike missiles (PrSMs).

The contractor will send five representatives alongside two US Government officials to Latvia to help establish the systems in the country.