Spain to send NASAMS air defense systems to Estonia
Spain will deploy NASAMS air defense systems to Estonia for four months to strengthen NATO's eastern flank after the two countries struck a deal.
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur and Minister of Defense of Spain Margarita Robles made the agreement on the sidelines of the NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels.
NASAMS are a medium-range ground-based air defense system, Pevkur said in a statement.
The weapon will fill a «critical gap» in the country's defense capabilities, he added. Estonia is in the final stages of procuring its own air defense systems.
«This is a short-term solution, however, we are already preparing a more sustainable solution. To that end, with Latvia and Lithuania, we made a proposal in NATO to establish an air defense rotation model, similar to the Baltic Air Policing mission currently in place. Therefore, hopefully, subsequent rotations in cooperation with Allies will also become possible,» Pevkur said.
The minister said Estonian forces will learn the «tactical specifics» of the weapon and give them the experience of integrating medium-range air defense system with other defense systems.
The NASAMS combat-ready unit will be based at Ämari Air Base and will be deployed to Estonia on the command of the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
A similar unit was sent to Latvia last year.
President Alar Karis thanked Spain for contributing to Estonia's defense.
«Mid-range air defense is a critical element in the NATO posture in the Baltic region. We will work in NATO to further strengthen this for the NATO Vilnius Summit. Thank you Spain!» he wrote on social media.
Spain will deploy a NASAMS air defence system to Estonia in April for a period of four months.
The deployment was agreed by the Spanish defence minister, Margarita Robles, and her Estonian counterpart, Hanno Pevkur, at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels on 14 February.
According to Pevkur, as Estonia awaits the arrival of its own air defence systems, it is important that allied support is present. “The Eastern flank of NATO has grown its muscle significantly over the past year. Considering the need to fill this critical gap in our medium-range air defence capabilities, I am very glad we reached an agreement with Spain on the deployment of their NASAMS medium-range, ground-based air defence system for four months, starting this April,” he said in a statement.
The Estonian defence minister added that the NASAMS unit will enable the Estonian Defence Forces to learn the tactical specifics of a medium-range air defence system.
Defending the Ämari Air Base
The objective of the NASAMS unit in Estonia will be the defence of the Ämari Air Base. The unit is combat-ready and will be deployed to Estonia on the command of the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. A similar unit has been deployed to Latvia – the two systems will be linked and will be part of NATO’s Eastern flank air and missile defence.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have made a joint proposal in NATO to establish an air defence rotation model in the Baltic states – similarly to the Baltic Air Policing mission currently in place. With the air policing mission, larger NATO member states rotate their fighter jets for the defence of the Baltic air space. The rotation usually lasts six months, with the Ämari Air Base in Estonia and the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania hosting four allied jets each.
Spanish air defense system deployed in Latvia
In response to the need to strengthen the defense capabilities of the Baltic region after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Spanish-supplied ground-to-air NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) anti-aircraft missile battery has deployed at the National Air Force Base in Lielvarde, the LETA news agency reported June 26, citing the Ministry of Defense.
Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks said the deployment of modern air defense systems in Latvia, thanks to the determination of the Spanish government, is a clear confirmation that Latvia's defense and security are in the interests of the entire NATO alliance, he emphasized.
Along with the anti-aircraft missile battery, 85 soldiers of the Spanish Armed Forces have also arrived in Latvia, joining about 500 Spanish soldiers already in the Baltics.