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Ukraine conflict: Estonia and Latvia jointly procure IRIS-T air-defence system

Estonia and Latvia are jointly procuring the IRIS-T air-defence system. (Diehl)

Estonia and Latvia are jointly procuring the IRIS-T air-defence system, the two Baltic states' defence ministers announced in Riga on 21 May. Latvian Defence Minister Ināra Mūrniece and her Estonian counterpart, Hanno Pevkur, said the joint purchase would create a new ‘Livonian shield' protecting their countries' airspace.

The two defence ministers said negotiations would begin with Diehl Defence, which if successful Pevkur hoped would result in a contract and announcement in the third quarter of 2023. He said, “Our objective is to ensure operational medium-range air-defence [MRAD] capabilities for Estonia by 2025, which means that the first systems should arrive in 2024.” In addition to an MRAD system, the capability includes infrastructure, personnel, training, equipment, and other related costs, with the value of the investment to be determined during contract negotiations, according to the Estonian Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Latvian MoD added that the number of systems to be procured could not be revealed with negotiations under way. In the meantime, the ministry plans to train personnel and improve infrastructure, among other preparations, so that the Latvian National Armed Forces are ready to operate and maintain them. The negotiations also include the creation and involvement of the national industrial base in the maintenance of IRIS-T, according to the Latvian MoD.

“This has been a joint project of historical proportions for our defence co-operation, the largest one to date,” Pevkur said. Estonia and Latvia signed a letter of intent on the joint procurement of an MRAD system at NATO's June 2022 Madrid summit.

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