Estonian Ministry of Defence has launched a website introducing the development of national defence since the restoration of independence. According to Minister of Defence Jüri Luik since then the firepower and the willingness to defend has Estonia has seen a significant increase.
Luik commented that over the years consistent steps have been taken toward creating a fully equipped, manned and combat ready Estonian Defence Forces, which includes mechanized units and highest level of protection for individual soldiers. “As of today, the Scouts Battalion, part of 1st Infantry Brigade, has been equipped with CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicles, whose mobility, firepower and protection is among the best in the world,” Luik stressed.
According to Luik, the procurement of Infantry Fighting Vehicles has been part of the development of the armoured manoeuvring capability of the Estonian Defence Forces. Nearly 30 years ago the Defence Forces began with standard trucks lacking any protection, which was gradually replaced in 2005 with armoured personnel carriers and armoured trucks. “Effective military training can only be through the availability of the required armaments and equipment, but also multiple training areas and infrastructure of sufficient size,” Luik added. At present, seven training areas have been established in Estonia.
“The anti-tank capability of the Estonian Defence Forces has grown significantly with the acquisition of Javelin anti-tank missiles, and a procurement contract has also been signed for purchasing the long-range anti-tank system Eurospike,” Luik emphasised.
With the adoption of 155mm howitzers, maximum artillery range increased from 15km to 24-30 km. The next stage in the development of armoured manoeuvrability and range of fire will be the acquisition of K9 Thunder self-propelled artillery, from South Korea, the first of which has already entered service with the Defence Forces and has a range of up to 40 kilometers.
The website shows the development of Estonia’s defence capability from the 1990s to the present day, from training to procurement and infrastructure. Various metrics show both general development and changes in narrower fields, to illustrate the history and current state of military defence. The website also includes information on how the training of active servicemen and reservists is progressing, the kinds of armaments or infrastructure being invested in, to what degree the Estonian Defence Forces are contributing to international operations, and what is the overall defensive will of society.
For many years Estonia has belonged to the ranks of those NATO countries whose defence expenditure remains at 2% of GDP. Today, this group is comprised of a significantly larger number of countries, the ranks of which will expand even further in the near future. However due to nominal size of the economy, the Estonian investment into defence is among the smallest in Europe.
Estonia ranks at the bottom among NATO countries in terms of nominal defence spending. Even so, Estonia has managed to keep its level of investment in defence related equipment higher than the majority of NATO countries.
The National Defence Development Plan 2017–2026 foresees that by 2026 the 1st Infantry Brigade will have been developed fully into a mechanized infantry brigade and the 2nd Infantry Brigade will have been developed into a fully combat capable motorized light infantry brigade. The country’s territorial defence structure will also grow via the addition of more than 10 light infantry companies and a thousand troops, and the upgrading of the Defence League’s infrastructure – to ensure a high level of training for volunteers – will continue.
According to Minister of Defence Luik, the supplementing of independent defence capability with collective defence has significantly strengthened Estonia’s military capabilities and deterrence, since today’s security environment is shared. “Collective defence, in addition to affirming that our security environment is shared among allies, is a way to ensure Estonia’s access to military capabilities that we would not be able to acquire and maintain independently – it is worth remembering that the acquisition cost of each weapon system or item of equipment represents only one third of the total costs incurred during its lifetime,” Luik noted. “This is precisely why the ten-year national defence development plans and the four-year development plans of the Ministry of Defence have been prepared with the greatest detail, utilising the available resources to the maximum extent possible.”
Estonia has worked consistently to ensure the highest possible level of Allied support for our national defence, which is confirmed by the NATO Battle Group stationed at Tapa, NATO aircraft guarding Estonian airspace, and many other forms of cooperation.
Estonia’s independent defence capability is largely supported by the domestic defence industry and investment in research and development. In 2019, the Ministry of Defence contributed a total of nearly EUR 338 million to defence procurement, infrastructure, IT services, property management, outsourced catering and various economic expenses a total of 53%, i.e. slightly more than half of that money, was directed into the Estonian economy.
- The website introducing the development of national defence can be found at: https://riigikaitseareng.ee/en/
Further information: press[at]kaitseministeerium[dot]ee