New era for infantrymen

The Defense Forces will gradually switch to new, smaller-caliber automatic weapons and an updated soldier system. The aim of changes is to render the infantry lighter and faster in a matter of a few years.

The State Defense Investments Center’s (RKIK) procurement plan suggests that the year 2018 will see the updating of the equipment of thousands of conscripts and reservists that has remained unchanged for the past decade - writes postimees.ee.

This is the first time Estonia will buy new automatic weapons for the entire Defense Forces. “Regarding new automatic weapons, we will be procuring capacity as opposed to just buying guns. From magazines, munitions, harnesses to laser sights,” said head of procurement at RKIK Priit Soosaar.

Procurement conditions will see the state buy nearly 11,000 5.56 and 7.62 mm automatic weapons in 2018-2021. Conditions include the possibility of procuring an additional 18,000 firearms until 2024. Approximately 1,200 firearms will go to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) to be used by patrols, guard stations on the green border, border stations, and special units.

Nine arms manufacturers have currently qualified for the procurement and have until the end of January to present detailed offers. All weapons will be tested in Estonian conditions by Estonian Defense Forces members before a decision is made.

Price and lifespan of weapons play an important role next to usability. Estonia will not take prototypes or obsolete arms as the weapons must be in use with other EU or NATO members.

Innovations in the pipeline

Change has been a long time coming. Estonia procured Galil assault rifles from Israel in 1994-1995. In 2002, the Defense Forces adopted Swedish-made AK-4 assault rifles conscripts quickly named oars for their unwieldly length and shape.

The AK-4 uses a 7.62 mm cartridge, while new arms will use NATO’s 5.56 mm rounds. The Ministry of Defense says the switch has been carefully considered and should not result in compromise on the battlefield.

“Many Western countries are switching to the 5.56 mm cartridge. The main argument is that the weapon is lighter. The fighter can carry 30 or even 50 percent more ammunition,” said Kusti Salm, head of the ministry’s defense investments department. “Looking at operational development, this caliber should suffice for our needs.”

The Defense Forces also plans to change the way infantry squads are formed by adding a sniper with a 7.62 mm weapon capable of hitting targets 600 meters away to every squad.

The Defense Forces plans to update soldier systems through cooperation between the general staff and the Estonian defense industry. The army will procure new bulletproof and flak jackets that mask infrared signatures and are more practical than harnesses. These are the most expensive element of the new soldier system upgrading of which will cost €24 million.

New materials are used in soldiers’ fleece jackets and combat uniforms to be updated in 2018 and 2019. The new equipment must be lighter, more compact, dry faster, and make it possible to combine elements based on environmental requirements.

Contracts for SPGs

Estonia wants to sign a contract for 12-18 South Korean K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers. An official bid is expected from South Korea. Estonia’s partner in the procurement Finland has just bought 48 SPGs. The price the ministry manages to negotiate will decide how many howitzers Estonia will buy immediately and how many will be reserved as an option.

“It is very sensible for us to have the same capacity as Finland. We can pursue technical cooperation in case of a crisis – borrow ammunition or buy spare parts for example,” Soosaar said.

Now could be a good time to procure the capacity for several reasons. The K9 is one of the flagships of the South Korean military industry that is expected to become a breakthrough on international markets. Estonia will be the first NATO country to buy the SPGs in this form. Others have shown interest. Estonia must have taken delivery of all SPGs it will procure, have the necessary infrastructure, support vehicles, and completed training by 2026.

Communication is vital

One of the biggest procurements of next year concerns large-caliber ammunition. The state wants 155 mm ammunition it procures to be usable in both FH70 howitzers and K9 Thunders.

There are several obstacles. Manufacturers must acquire certificates before new munitions can be adopted. This requires thorough testing to make sure the round and charge perform reliably in every situation. Several manufacturers are in the middle of this process.

Another unfavorable circumstance is the ongoing ammunitions boom. “All countries are procuring munitions – from large to small caliber – right now. The market is greatly overheated, and this affects delivery times,” Soosaar said. No major manufacturer fills warehouses with munitions. This is contract work. That is why delivery of 155 mm munitions will be delayed, which caused a scandal in Estonia in making it look like €10 million had been removed from the defense budget.

One major upgrade next year will concern the air force that will take delivery of two C145 transport planes given to Estonia by the United States.

“These will boost the capacity of our air force considerably. These aircraft are used by special units in mission areas, but also as military transports,” Soosaar said. The six-year-old planes have better range, cargo capacity, and maneuverability than Estonia’s current AN-2 aircraft.

Among more important fields to be updated in the coming years is communications. The navy will receive updated software with which to exchange information with NATO allies that will give it capacity to conduct naval operations. Kusti Salm said Estonia will also get better battlefield communications to make it more resilient to Russian jammers. The more exact nature of changes is not disclosed.

“Communications is important on the tactical level, while it can be crucial on the strategic level to allow the government to continue running the country in a crisis. We are working on a new four-year development plan to move from satisfactory communications to proper communications by 2022,” Salm said.

Read more news of Tallinn on our site.

neweraforinfantrymen
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Politics
Chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and one of the owners of construction group Nordecon, Toomas Luman, finds that a prime ministerial candidate should first and foremost be able to answer the question of what will become of the demographic crisis in Estonia. The businessman sees controlled introduction of foreign labor as the solution. A digital construction cluster was created in Estonia a few years back to bring innovation to the s...
Society
Last year saw 27,125 registered offenses, up 0.5 percent from the year before. Violent crime was up by 12 percent to 8,249 offenses. PHOTO: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire / Press Association Images / Scanpix Growth was biggest for domestic violence – the police launched criminal proceedings in 3,607 cases that constitutes an increase of more than one-third – annual growth of 37 percent from 2,632 cases in 2017. At the same time, reports of domestic violence we...
Society
TALLINN - Ahead of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, tens of thousands of British citizens have chosen the citizenship of some other country, but only one Brit has recently chosen an Estonian citizenship. Spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior told BNS that only one British citizen submitted an application for Estonian citizenship last year and the applicant was also granted the citizenship. Before that, no Brits had soug...
Society
TALLINN - Experts from Finland, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands highlighted the importance of decentralization and granting local governments greater decision-making powers at a conference titled "Strong local government -- strong state?" in Tallinn on Wednesday.  All Nordic countries have chosen a model granting local governments significant decision-making powers, thus the central government does not prescribe how local governments are to fulfill the...
Society
The language learning application Drops by game developer Planb Labs, established in Estonia by Hungarian founders, was named Google Play's best app of 2018. With the number of downloads surpassing 10 million, Drops was named Google's app of the year as the revenue of Planb Labs, a company registered in Estonia, increased fivefold, CNBC said. The developer's revenue grew from €335,000 in 2017 to €1.7 million in 2018. The company's shareholders include Hung...
Society
TALLINN - The Estonian Health Board has banned the distribution of chlorine dioxide, also marketed as the Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS), the A-component of an unused product, meaning the sodium chlorite solution, must be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility. Ester Opik, head of the Health Board's North regional department, said that the banning of the distribution of the product was caused by the fact that MMS, distributed as a cosmetics produ...
Society
Nature cannot abide a vacancy, as the saying goes. If just one year ago, Estonia was battling the sale of MMS and the practice of giving it to children, a new “miracle cure” called Advanced TRS has appeared on the market now. Even though the make-up of the substance is different, the promise to cure autism and cleanse the body of heavy metals, which kind of extreme detox is accompanied by severe side-effects, sounds all too familiar. TRS is recommended to...
Society
Allied NATO battalions will soon mark two years serving in the Baltics. They have worked better than expected but would need prepositioned heavy weaponry and a functional contingency plan in case of a crisis, a report by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) finds. “We do not know how Russia would have acted had we not welcomed allies in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in 2017. I’m afraid they would have tested our resolve,” one of...
Society
The time of filing income tax returns is nearly upon us. The new income tax system, in effect since last year, will obligate many women who went on maternity leave toward the end of the year to make additional income tax payments, while those who give birth in the middle or at the beginning of the year have no such obligation. What this means is that some women will owe the state simply for giving birth “at the wrong time”. Laura Roop, who went on maternit...