Estonia has signed an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to procure advanced long-range loitering munitions.
IAI confirmed the deal in a statement May 2. While it did not say anything about the contract’s value, it said the contract is “one of the most expensive defense procurement Estonia has ever made.”
"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. The introduction of this new capability allows us to attack the enemy from a longer distance. As a result, indirect fire becomes more layered and flexible, increasing the range of fire, which means that the defense forces can hit the enemy where it hurts," said Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur.
The Estonian Defence Forces' indirect fire capability is provided by various caliber mortars in the composition of maneuver units and self-propelled howitzers in divisional composition. In 2024-2025, multiple rocket launchers and long-range loitering munitions units will also be created within the Defence Forces.
Prior to the procurement of stealth air-launched munitions, a thorough market research was conducted to find the most suitable solution for the defense forces' needs. Estonia's order focused primarily on achieving long-range offensive capabilities. Criteria included precision, munition robustness, and wide-ranging simultaneous offensive capability.
Market research for the procurement of long-range loitering munitions began in the spring of 2022 with the mapping of the first companies. The market research included companies from the USA, Turkey, South Korea, Poland, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Estonia.
The first deliveries are expected to arrive in 2024, with the necessary training provided to the Defence Forces before deployment. The Defense Forces will be ready to use the systems as soon as they arrive.