Estonia, Latvia Eye German Iris-T Missile for Joint Air Defense System

Estonia and Latvia have started negotiations to jointly procure the Iris-T surface-launched missile (SLM) from German weapons provider Diehl Defence.

The plan builds on a letter of intent to acquire a common medium-range air defense system in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine signed during a NATO summit in Madrid last year.

The Baltic countries expect initial deliveries in 2024 and full operational capability by 2025.

“I am very happy that together with Latvia we have reached the next milestone in our joint procurement for medium range air defence,” Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur stated.

“This has been a joint project of historical proportions for our defence 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.”

‘Maximum Protection’

First tested in 2014, the Iris-T SLM has a range of up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) and an altitude of up to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles).

The weapon’s initial version was introduced as an air-to-air capability for fighter jets, while the SLM adaptation was developed as Germany’s Tactical Air Defence System variant.

“Our jointly selected medium-range air defence 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,“ Latvian Defence Minister Ināra Mūrniece said.

Joint Mid-Air Defense Progress

Estonia’s Centre of Defence Investment (RKIK) conducted market research to determine potential industry partners.

The government announced it had allocated funds for the sale in September 2022.

IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile. Photo: Diehl

“For selecting the winning bidder, we looked at evaluation criteria such as the technical capacity of the system, the total cost of the system, the life cycle cost for the coming 30 years, the delivery time and the involvement of the local industry, so that Estonian and Latvian industry could also make a contribution towards the capacity development,” RKIK’s Priit Soosaar explained.

The air defense system’s final cost will be disclosed upon the conclusion of contract negotiations.

Alongside the weapons, Estonia and Latvia will receive associated equipment, infrastructure, training, and specialists.

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