Largest defence contract in Estonian history: Estonia and Latvia jointly acquire IRIS-T SLM medium-range air defence system

At today’s meeting of Estonian, Latvian and German defence ministers near Nuremberg, Estonia and Latvia signed a contract for the procurement of the IRIS-T SLM medium-range air defence system from the German defence industry enterprise Diehl Defence. The acquisition of the system will increase the security of Estonian and Latvian airspace, ensuring the best possible protection for the population and the civil and military infrastructure. The approximately €400 million procurement is the largest defence contract in Estonian history.

“The development of Estonia’s national defence has reached a new milestone with this medium-range air defence contract. This is a project of historic importance and unprecedented scale from the point of view of both the military defence of Estonia and the Estonian-Latvian defence cooperation, which will significantly increase the security of the Estonian people. Russia’s barbaric war in Ukraine has shown that air defence is critical to protect armed forces and critical infrastructure from air attacks,” said Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur.

Pevkur added that the historicity and importance of the procurement for Germany was confirmed by the fact that German Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius participated in the signing, which took place at the Diehl Defence Development Centre in Röthenbach near Nuremberg.

“During this challenging project, we managed to ensure very close competition, short delivery times and the best price. Close cooperation with Latvia made it possible to manage the project more efficiently, get economies of scale and also gave us a better position in negotiations. In the future, similar systems will allow to improve interoperability, exchange experience, share spare parts and ammunition and organize joint training,” said Priit Soosaar, Stategic Category Manager (C4I, Cyber & Radars)

Soosaar added that for the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments, the medium-range air defence project does not end with the signing of the contract, as the Centre’s task is to ensure the timely arrival of the first system units in Estonia and the achievement of operational readiness by 2025.

In addition to the air defence system including launchers, radars, fire control centres and missiles, the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments will also procure other supporting elements such as  training and life-cycle equipment. Furthermore, the framework contract will provide the possibility to acquire in the future various modifications of air defence systems, including systems with long-range capability.

The IRIS-T SLM air defence system to be procured is designed to be used against manned or unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, guided weapons systems and certain types of ballistic missiles. Thanks to its capability, the system is able to affect multiple targets simultaneously and eliminate threats at a range of up to 40 km and an altitude of 20 km above the ground.

The components of the system are mobile and quickly relocatable because they are installed on high-capacity trucks. One launcher unit of the system can carry up to eight missiles.

Helmut Rauch, CEO of Diehl Defence, stated: “Our teams managed to finalize a contract in record time, despite the large and complex undertaking. This a sign of real team spirit. We are pleased, that our system emerged as the chosen solution in the competition and that you put your trust in us to protect the airspace of Estonia and Latvia and its citizens. With IRIS-T SLM, Diehl Defence has developed a market available, highly effective and combat proven air defence system.”

Estonia and Latvia signed a Protocol of Intent to “Jointly Acquire Medium-Range Air Defence” at the NATO Summit in Madrid in June 2022. In July last year, the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments signed an agreement with the Latvian Ministry of Defence to commence a joint procurement. The Estonian government allocated the funds for the procurement of medium-range air defence in September 2022.

Diehl Defence