In joint procurement for medium range air defence, Estonia and Latvia will start negotiations with the German weapons manufacturer Diehl Defence for acquiring the Iris-T SLM air defense system, announced defence ministers Hanno Pevkur and Inara Murniece on Sunday in Riga. Estonia and Latvia signed a Letter of Intent for the joint procurement of medium-range air defense in June 2022, at the NATO Summit in Madrid. The process has been led by the Estonian Centre for Defence Investment (RKIK), which entered into agreement with the Ministry of Defence of Estonia for the joint procurement last July.
“I am very happy that together with Latvia we have reached the next milestone in our joint procurement for medium range air defense. This has been a joint project of historical proportions for our defense cooperation, the largest one to date. Presuming that negotiations are successful, we hope to reach contract and, subsequently, announce the official winning bidder this summer,” said Estonian Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur.
“Our jointly selected medium-range air defense system will further secure the sky of Latvia and Estonia and will provide the maximum possible protection for our people, as well as civil and military infrastructure,“ said Minister of Defence of Latvia Inara Murniece.
The Estonian Centre of Defence Investment (RKIK) carried out thorough market research for potential bidders and looked at six international companies. The bids went through a thorough analysis. The final cost of the investment will be determined during contract negotiations. The capability includes the medium-range air defence system, but also the infrastructure, personnel, training, equipment and other related costs. Medium-range air defence systems are effective for neutralising both planes and helicopters, as well as a host of other threats, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and loitering munitions.
The IRIS-T (“InfraRed Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled”) is a medium range infrared homing missile available in both air-to-air and ground defence surface-to-air variants. Surface-to-air defence systems variants came later, with the short-range IRIS-T SLS fielded in 2015, and the medium-range IRIS-T SLM fielded in 2022. One IRIS-T SLM battery, as supplied by Germany to Ukraine, consists of three truck-mounted launchers, carrying eight missiles each (with a range of 40 kilometres or 25 miles), and a separate command vehicle that can be positioned up to 20 kilometres (12 mi) away. The IRIS-T SLM can counter surface-to-air missiles and cruise missiles, including low-flying, stealthy missiles such as the Kalibr.