Despite being geographically close Estonia and Russia have a fractious relationship, due in part to the former’s ties with the United States. In recent days the Estonian Defence Ministry has confirmed the purchase of a new weaponry system that will significantly bolster its armoury.
Estonia has bought a number of high-precision, long-range multiple launch rocket systems, with approval from US authorities, which will provide the small Baltic country with a defensive attack capacity.
“It makes our neighbour (Russia) nervous”, claimed Estonian Defense Minister, Kalle Laanet.
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Laanet, in statements to local media, was at great pains to point out that the purchase had receive authorisation from the United States Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), allying his nation with the US. The deal consists of six High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and a range of sophisticated ammunition loads with a total cost of around $550 million.
.@StateDept authorizes a proposed Foreign Military Sale #FMS to #Estonia for their purchase of up to 6 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System #HIMARS Launchers & related equipment for an estimated cost of up to $500 million. 🇺🇸🇪🇪#FMSUpdate – https://t.co/zhIQerNeWf pic.twitter.com/iOxnmMXZ8e
In recent weeks a number of these systems have been delivered to Ukraine and are credited with the destruction of a dozen Russian ammunition stores with precision attacks. Long-range rocket munitions can attack enemy supply lines and troop movements by firing from positions well beyond the range of conventional tube artillery. For Ukraine, they present the opportunity to launch counter-attacks on Russian territory and could act as a significant deterrent.
The bulk of the deliveries of HIMARS systems to Estonia will consist of around 160 ‘pods’, which carry a payload of up to six missiles in each. These weapons have a range of up to 200 kilometers and precise radar guidance and other sensors to direct the warheads to their targets, according to a DSCA press release.
While most Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) are considered “area weapons” that drop warheads on or around a given location, HIMARS can be configured so that each rocket targets a specific building or vehicle.
U.S. weapons are flowing across Europe: "In the $713 million aid package announced by the White House in April, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will each receive $45 million in financing to buy American weaponry". https://t.co/5GNwS3uxTv
Local media reported that Estonian defense officials expect to see the delivery and full deployment of the HIMARS by the armed forces within the next two years. In addition to the six launch systems and ammunition cases, the HIMARS purchase will include training weapon loads, rugged laptops and a series of training manuals for various HIMARS parts and ammunition types.
A senior military official of the US Department of Defense (DoD) highlighted the impact that the weapons have already had in the defence of Ukraine.
He told Army Technology: “If you think about the fact that the Ukrainians have been talking about a number of the targets [they] are hitting […] they’re spending a lot of time striking targets like ammunition, supplies, other logistical supplies, command and control.
“Although they’re not shooting the HIMARS at the front lines, they are having a very, very significant effect on that.”
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