Latvia and Estonia will implement joint air defence system procurement to create the Livonian air shield for safe skies

05/21/2023 - 15:33
In Latvia
International cooperation
Defence policy
Information prepared by
Media Relations Section

On Sunday, 21 May, Latvian Defence Minister Ināra Mūrniece and her Estonian counterpart, Hanno Pevkur, announced the joint IRIS-T air defence system procurement, which will form the basis of Livonian Shield, a common Latvian-Estonian safe skies programme.

‘Our National Armed Forces mostly focused on development of short-range air defence capabilities until now. Today Estonia and Latvia are making the next step and will procure medium-range air defence systems to ensure that the whole territory of Latvia is covered by this common air defence network, giving our population, civilian and military infrastructure the necessary level of safety. Among its competitors in medium-range category, the IRIS-T variation we have chosen is among some of the most state-of-the-art solutions available globally. Militarily reliable solution with solid combat track record. Selection was based on military criteria suggested by Estonian and Latvian defence experts,’ Defence Minister Mūrniece said during the press conference.

‘This is an unprecedented success story of Estonian-Latvian defence cooperation. It is also historically the biggest joint procurement implemented by Latvia and Estonia,’ Estonian Defence Minister Pevkur said to media.
Latvia is developing a multi-layered air defence framework that will utilise air defence systems of various range to protect ground infrastructure and also back each other up. By adding layers, Latvia will continue to enhance its overall resilience against enemy air attacks. Development of such air defence system is one of government priorities in Latvia.

According to Defence Minister, ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine is a clear signal that Baltic countries need to create a modern and efficient air defence system. That is also why Ministry of Defence prioritises air defence combat efficiency in current circumstances. According to our allies in Ukraine, these systems are extremely efficient when defending against Russian air forces, including planes, helicopters, UAVs and cruise missiles. They can even destroy short-range ballistic missiles’.

Joint procurement of same type systems will allow both countries reduce fiscal costs while also enhancing coordination between the Baltic countries. According to Minister Mūrniece, this will be the biggest defence procurement in Latvia since restoration of independence. New air defence systems, which are compatible with various air defence and command systems popular among other NATO member states, are a significant upgrade for Latvia and the Alliance. 

While negotiations with potential supplier of defence systems are being finalised, Ministry of Defence cannot disclose the amount of contract or any other terms and conditions of the procurement. Along with negotiations on development of national industrial base and maintenance of IRIS-T air defence systems, contract with supplier will be finalised in the next few months. Indicatively, after the signing, systems will be delivered in 2025. Meanwhile, Latvia will have to train personnel, upgrade infrastructure and do other homework to prepare for the big leap and make sure it is ready to fully operate and maintain the systems delivered to National Armed Forces.

During the press conference, Defence Minister Mūrniece also announced that NATO Air-Policing Mission fighter aircraft and support personnel under the leadership of Germany will be relocated to Lielvārde Air Base in 2024, for the time of reconstruction of Estonia’s Ämari Air Base.

Although Lielvārde Air Base has no experience in participating in NATO air policing missions, its infrastructure meets all applicable NATO standards. Moreover, Lielvārde has been successfully used on routine basis by Allied air forces, including helicopters, large cargo planes and fifth generation fighter jets.

‘Through these efforts, Baltic countries are sending an unmistakable signal to all potential aggressors: any use of military force, like the invasion of Ukraine, will be met by the Baltic states with highly-disciplined and militarily capable force,’ Ināra Mūrniece underlined.

Contact information:
Roberts Skraučs
Head of the Media Relations Section
Military Public Affairs Department
Tel.: 67335393