Estonia and Latvia, two NATO nations that share a border with Russia, are planning to jointly purchase a German-made IRIS-T Surface-Launched-Missile (SLM) system in what would be the biggest defense cooperation agreement between the Baltic neighbors.
The deal was announced by the Estonian and Latvian defense ministries on May 21, 2023, and described by Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur as “a project of historical proportions for our defense cooperation, the largest one to date”
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Estonia and Latvia have considerably increased their defense budgets.
“Presuming that negotiations are successful, we hope to reach a contract and, subsequently, announce the official winning bidder this summer,” Pevkur stated.
Countries are expecting that the first of the weapons systems, manufactured by Germany’s Diehl Defence, could be in service by 2025. Other details about the deal’s value and the quantity of the system were not disclosed, as negotiations with the supplier are still in progress. However, Latvian Defence Minister Inara Murniece hinted that it would be the largest investment in Latvia’s defense sector since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The IRIS-T SLM defense system is designed to provide medium-range, high-altitude defense for small cities and military forces. Each system comprises a missile launcher, a radar, and a fire-control radar, complete with integrated logistics and support. The system has an operational range of 40 kilometers, can reach altitudes of up to 20 kilometers, and a radar with a reach of 250 kilometers. Furthermore, the missiles are deployable 360 degrees around the launcher.
The system’s capabilities have already been demonstrated in Ukraine, where the Ukrainian army has successfully employed several such systems, provided by Germany, against invading Russian forces.