Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is to supply NATO member Estonia with long-range loitering munitions, as the Baltic state moves to strengthen its defensive capabilities.
Announced on 2 May, the deal will see equipment deliveries made from 2024, following the Israeli company’s provision of personnel training.
“The [Estonian] defence forces will be ready to use the systems as soon as they arrive,” IAI says.
Imagery released by IAI indicates that the sale to Tallinn includes its Mini Harpy armed unmanned air vehicle.
“Long-range loitering munitions are an important addition to the development of Estonia’s defence capability,” says defence minister Hanno Pevkur. “The introduction of this new capability allows us to attack the enemy from a longer distance.”
“The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the ongoing war in Ukraine have demonstrated the high effectiveness of this type of offensive weapon,” notes Ramil Lipp, armament category manager at the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments. “In the future, we plan to acquire similar [indirect fire] weapons with different technical capabilities, and for firing at different ranges.”
IAI notes that its selection followed a period of “thorough market research” by the customer, which it says considered criteria including “precision, munition robustness, and wide-ranging simultaneous offensive capability”.
That assessment also included “companies from the USA, Turkey, South Korea, Poland, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Estonia”, it adds.
With a launch weight of 40kg (88lb) including an up to 8kg warhead, the Mini Harpy has a range of 100nm (185km) and a 2h operating endurance, according to IAI. The company also produces larger and longer-range systems including the Harop, Harpy and Mini Harop.
“This award reflects the growing trust and relations between Estonia and our company,” says IAI chief executive Boaz Levi.
Estonia in 2022 spent the equivalent of 2.12% of its gross domestic product on defence, according to figures published by NATO earlier this year. It was one of only seven member states to exceed the alliance’s 2% objective figure, along with Greece, the USA, Lithuania, Poland, the UK and Latvia.