Lithuania has procured 36 AIM-120C-8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and other equipment and support in a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement with the US Government for $100m on 23 October 2023.

The US Defense Security Co-operation Agency states its intention for the missiles to be used with Lithuania’s ground-based National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), of which it operates two batteries ordered from the Norwegian supplier Kongsberg in 2017.

The AIM-120 AMRAAM is an all-weather missile manufactured by Raytheon, a subsidiary of the American defence prime RTX. The missile has beyond-visual-range and home-on-jamming capabilities.

AMRAAM has a length of 3.6 metres, diameter of 17.7 centimetres (cm), and wingspan of 52.5cm. The launch weight of the missile is 150.7 kilograms (kg). It can carry an 18.1kg high-explosive blast fragmentation warhead to a maximum range of between 20 nautical miles (nm) to 30nm.

Securing Baltic airspace: policing and missile defence

Lithuania’s order comes after the Baltic nation called for its Nato partners to fulfil promises made at the Vilnius summit in June to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank.

“We [must] quickly implement the decisions made in Vilnius,” Lithuania’s Minister of National Defence, Arvydas Anušauskas urged, referring to the implementation of a rotational air defence model wherein western partners send their missile defence systems (MDS) to secure Baltic airspace.

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In August this year, Lithuania purchased two more systems from Kongsberg for $10.7m, earmarked for Ukraine as the war-torn country continues resisting Russia’s full-scale invasion.

While Lithuania clearly exercises a policy of collective air defence across Nato’s eastern flank, the nation is waiting for its partners to return the favour.

Nato’s longstanding air policing mission, in which countries operate in Baltic airspace on a rotational basis, does not appear to be enough for Anušauskas, who argues that a “transition” from aerial policing to aerial defence is imperative.

US furnishes European MDS

According to GlobalData intelligence, RTX Corp will be the third highest revenue earner over 2023–33.

The company is anticipated to account for earnings worth $30.82bn owing to the procurement of the Patriot missile defence system by Poland, Switzerland, Romania, and Spain, along with the RIM-162 ESSM and several variants of AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles by the UK, Belgium, and Portugal, among others.

Most acquisitions to Lithuania, and the Baltic region, are made from the US and Germany, a European country that has recently furnished Estonia and Latvia with the Iris-T medium-range MDS.

While this makes it difficult for companies outside of Lithuania to sell into its defence market, American consolidation still has its benefits.

The western superpower is beginning to prioritise the Baltic region as a matter of policy, which will enable Lithuania to integrate American-made, standard Nato weapon systems in the same way as other European countries such as Poland and Estonia.