Lithuania to Defer Tanks Purchase, Buy Air Defense Systems Instead

Lithuania postpones tank procurement to prioritize scarce air defense resources amid evolving NATO security priorities.
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  • 07:16 AM, April 22, 2024
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Lithuania to Defer Tanks Purchase, Buy Air Defense Systems Instead
Lithuania, Germany repair damaged Ukrainian Leopard battle tanks in Lithuania @Lithuania MoD

Lithuania is reevaluating its defense procurement strategy, with a focus on prioritizing the acquisition of air defense systems while deferring the supply of tanks.

Defense Minister Laurynas Kasciunas has proposed restructuring the plan, advocating for the creation of a tank company initially instead of proceeding directly to a tank battalion. The funds thus freed would be redirected towards enhancing air defense capabilities, notably by purchasing two additional medium-range air defense systems this year—expediting a timeline that originally slated these purchases for a decade later, as reported by Lithuanian national broadcaster LRT.

Kasciunas has suggested the potential expansion of the tank unit to battalion size at a later stage. This proposal garnered support from Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who deemed it pragmatic considering the critical shortage of air defense assets across NATO countries.

President Gitanas Nausėda underscored the importance of any adjustments in defense plans not affecting the timeline for forming a 17,000-18,000 troop division by 2030. Additionally, the Lithuanian government aims to establish a dedicated fund to sustain defense expenditures.

In early April, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the temporary deployment of Patriot air defense systems from the Netherlands to Lithuania. This follows requests from Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia to NATO allies for rotational deployments of air defense systems. Last April, Spain rotated its medium-range air defense unit through Estonia but withdrew it in December.

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