In recent years, the Baltic States have made efforts to implement short-range air defense programs, though to date these have mostly been efforts to defend vital targets within their countries as opposed to any effort at national air defense. While Latvia and Lithuania opted for Sweden’s unjammable laser-guided RBS-70, Estonia went in a different direction.
After narrowing the competition to Raytheon’s FIM-92 Stinger and MBDA’s Mistral, the Estonian government announced the winner of a 1 billion Kroon (currently about $84.5 million) contract on Feb 28/07 for Mistral missiles, networked via Saab’s Giraffe 3D radars. Now the first systems are being delivered, and a Finnish decision will also help deliver complementary long-range radars to Estonia.
Estonia’s New Systems
The winners were MBDA and Saab, who will deliver Mistral man-portable anti-aircraft missiles, linked to coordination posts and Saab’s Giraffe AMB radars. The delivered system will be fully NATO-compatible by using NATO data links such as Link 11B and LLAPI, integrated by Saab Microwave Systems.
MBDA data gives Mistral a maximum range of about 6.5km, and a maximum intercept altitude of 3km, making it a A VSHORAD (Very SHOrt Range Air Defense) system. Estonia brings the number of countries who have bought Mistral to 27; the missile is also packaged for use by ground vehicles (Atlas, Albi), ships (Sadral, Simbad) and helicopters (Atam). MBDA is jointly owned by BAE Systems (37.5%), EADS (37.5%) and Finmeccanica (25%).
Estonia’s 1st Infantry Brigade will receive the systems in accordance with the 2005 “National Military Strategy” [RTF format] and 2004-2006 Defence budget [Excel format] in order to defend the brigade against air attack in Estonia and/or during NATO missions. See also this summary of Estonia’s security policy & memberships.
MBDA France and Saab AB will deliver their products to the Ministry of Defence over the next 2 years. In an unusual move for Estonia, which is often touted as a classic success story for free-market policies, the government is also requiring equivalent EEK 1 billion industrial/ research offset contracts from the winners. See government release [English version] | Saab release.
June 14/18: Purchase again Estonia is again opting for the Mistral short range air defense missile. The $59 million deal between the Eastern-European nation and the French missile manufacturer MBDA also includes man portable surface to air missiles, training missiles, simulators and testing and maintenance equipment. Under the terms of the contract, Estonia will continue acquiring Mistral SHORAD missiles in their latest generation which provide increased accuracy and longer service life than missiles of previous generations. The fully autonomous ‘fire and forget’ Mistral 2 missile is equipped with a two-stage solid propellant rocket motor and carries a 3kg high-explosive warhead loaded with tungsten ball projectiles. Guidance is by passive infrared homing using an indium arsenide detector array operating in the three to five-micron waveband. Compared to any other low-level air defense missile, Mistral is more reliable and successful. It has a success rate of 93%. The current contract also includes options for additional missiles up to the amount of $117 million, with the first deliveries to expected by 2020.
March 26/13: GM400. An official ceremony is held on Muhu island in Estonia to mark the entry into service of Estonia’s first Ground Master 400 long-range air defense radar system. The GM 400 is designed for both fixed site operation under a radome at Muhu base, and for rapid deployment in the field on a Sisu truck.
This GM 400 will be connected to NATO’s wider battle networks, and can be interconnected with all the other air defense radars deployed across Europe.
May 5/09: GM400. ThalesRaytheon Systems announces a EUR 200 million ($265 million equivalent) contract to deliver radars and upgrades to Finland, and provide Estonia with long-range air defense radars that can cue their SHORAD defenses.
ThalesRaytheon will deliver 12 Ground Master 403 radar systems to Finland, and exercise an option to work with Finnish vehicle-maker Sisu to deliver another 2 systems for Estonia. The S/I/J band Ground Master 403 radars have a surveillance range of about 440km/ 273 miles, and are designed for deployment in remote areas and hostile climates. Mounting them on Sisu trucks will make them fully mobile.
This will be the largest order so far for the Ground Master family, which has already been purchased by France, Malaysia and Slovenia.
Aug 14/08: SHORAD. The Estonian Ministry of Defence confirms that the new SHORAD systems arrived in Tallinn in the end of July 2008. The first consignment included firing equipment, Mistral training missiles, simulators and testing and maintenance equipment. The spare parts kit was also delivered in July, in a separate shipment.
Air Defence Battalion officers and NCO training will begin in September 2008, organized by MBDA and SAAB instructors. The first training cycle will be taking place at Tapa Air Defence Battalion and the second in France. The next weapon system consignment is expected to arrive in the beginning of 2009.