Home Europe Estonia, Latvia negotiating joint buy of German Iris-T air defense systems

Estonia, Latvia negotiating joint buy of German Iris-T air defense systems

Illustration: Diehl Defence graphic of an Iris-T SLM system

Estonia and Latvia are planning a joint purchase of Iris-T SLM air defense system and will be launching negotiations with the German manufacturer of the system Diehl Defence.

The decision on shortlisting the Iris-T as the preferred system for the two countries was announced on Sunday in Riga during a meeting between Estonian defense minister Hanno Pevkur and his Latvian counterpart Ināra Mūrniece.

“I am very happy that together with Latvia we have reached a new milestone in the joint procurement of central air defense. This is a joint project of historic importance in the defense cooperation of the two countries, because we have never implemented a joint procurement on such a scale before,” said Pevkur.

“If the negotiations are successful, we hope to reach an agreement and announce the official winner of the tender this summer,” added the Estonian defense minister.

“The jointly selected mid-range air defense system increases the security of Latvian and Estonian airspace and ensures the best possible protection for our people and civilian and military infrastructure,” Latvian defense minister Mūrniece continued.

Estonia and Latvia signed a joint procurement memorandum of intent for the acquisition of medium-range air defense in June 2022 at the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

“We have set ourselves the goal of providing Estonia with a functioning medium-range air defense capability by 2025, and for that the first systems must arrive here in 2024,” said Pevkur.

The exact cost of the investment along with the exact delivery times will be revealed after the contractual negotiations. The price of the capability includes the medium-range air defense system as well as infrastructure, personnel, training, equipment and other related costs.

The Iris-T SLM can intercept missiles at altitudes of up to 20 kilometers and distances of up to 40 kilometers. The interceptor missile was originally developed as an air-to-air weapon for fighter aircraft, but Diehl Defence developed the surface-launched Iris-T SL variant for Germany’s Tactical Air Defence System (TLVS). A complete Iris-T SLM system was first successfully tested in 2014.

Estonia and Latvia announced their decision after Diehl demonstrated the interoperability of its Iris-T SLM during NATO’s Joint Project Optic Windmill (JPOW) exercise.

Exercise JPOW took place in March 2023 at Vredepeel in the Netherlands, with the main exercise objective being “peer opponent, multi domain”. Held every two years since 1996, this year’s exercise focused on integrated air defense and interoperability at all levels of command. 13 different nations conducted individual experiments and joint missions with their systems.

Diehl Defence’s Iris-T SLM system took part in the exercise as a “future system” under the command of the German Air Force, guided by a German and a Dutch “control and reporting center” (CRC) and “surface-to-air-missile operations center” (SAMOC) command post of the German Air Force, among others.