Estonia’s defence has been strengthened with the acquisition of long-range loitering munitions as it expands its indirect fire capabilities.

With extended-range artillery ammunition, anti-ship missiles, and multiple launch rocket systems, Estonia will soon have a range of abilities to influence the adversary from long distances.

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Currently, the Estonian Defence Forces’ indirect fire capability is provided by a range of mortars and self-propelled howitzers. However, by 2024-2025, multiple rocket launchers and long-range loitering munitions units will also be established within the defence forces.

This year, Estonia bought twelve K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers from South Korean arms manufacturer Hanwha Techwin in a €36m deal.

The acquisition of such equipment is to replace the military packages that the Baltic nation sent to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, and in a modernisation effort to protect themselves from the same fate. 

At the beginning of the year, Estonia delivered to Ukraine FH-70 155mm and D-30 122mm towed howitzers as part of a military aid package worth €113m. 

Before finalising the procurement of stealth air-launched munitions, extensive market research was conducted to identify the most suitable solution for the defence forces’ needs.

Estonia’s order primarily focused on achieving long-range offensive capabilities, with precision, munition robustness, and wide-ranging simultaneous offensive capability as the critical criteria.

The market research for the procurement of long-range loitering munitions began in the spring of 2022 and included companies from the USA, Turkey, South Korea, Poland, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Estonia.

After careful consideration, Estonia chose to enter into a contract with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

IAI’s President and CEO, Boaz Levi, said: “Estonia is a strategic partner for IAI. This award reflects the growing trust and relations between Estonia and our company. IAI offers a family of loitering munition missiles – providing a wide range of solutions from the tactical to the strategic level.” 

The first deliveries of the long-range loitering munitions are expected to arrive in 2024, with the necessary training provided to the defence forces before deployment. The defence forces will be ready to use the systems as soon as they arrive, significantly enhancing Estonia’s defence capabilities.

“Long-range loitering munitions are an important addition to the development of Estonia’s defence capability. The importance of indirect fire cannot be overestimated, as Russia has caused much of the destruction in Ukraine through indirect fire,” said Estonia Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur.