Estonia: HIMARS rocket system purchase makes Russia nervous

Riga, Jul 17 (EFE).- The purchase of high accuracy, long-range multiple launch rocket systems by Estonia, approved by United States authorities, will give the small Baltic country a defensive strike capability that “makes our neighbor (Russia) nervous,” Estonia’s defense minister Kalle Laanet told local media.

Laanet was commenting on the Friday deal by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) that approved the sale of six high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and a range of sophisticated ammunition loads costing a total of up to $500 million to Estonia.

HIMARS platforms delivered in recent weeks to Ukraine have been credited with destroying around a dozen Russian ammunition storage facilities with precision strikes that set off secondary explosions.

According to a press release from the DSCA, the bulk of the proposed deliveries of HIMARS systems to Estonia will consist of just over 160 “pods” or loads of up to six missiles, some with ranges of up to 200 kilometers and precision guidance radars and other sensors to direct the warheads to their targets.

Longer-range rocket munitions can strike at enemy supply lines and troop movements by firing from positions far beyond the range of conventional “tube” artillery and can hit targets well inside an aggressor’s own territory.

While many multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) are seen as “area weapons” dropping warheads on or around a targeted location, HIMARS can be configured to have each rocket seek and hit a particular building or vehicle.

Local media report that Estonian defense officials hope to see full delivery and deployment of HIMARS by the armed forces in, at most, two years. In addition to the six launch vehicles — light military trucks — and ammunition pods, the HIMARS purchase will include training weapons loads, ruggedized laptop computers and a range of training manuals for various parts of the HIMARS and types of ammunition.

HIMARS are manufactured by the US defense contractor Lockheed Martin. According to the DSCA, the company and the US government will send 15 specialists each to oversee delivery, training and deployment of the weapons system in Estonia.

All three Baltic countries have agreed in principle to jointly purchase MLRS-type weapons systems and it remains to be seen whether Latvian and Lithuanian defense officials will join in a purchase of additional HIMARS for their own defense forces.

HIMARS launch platforms can be deployed by air and move rapidly on most roads, so that any and all HIMARS in the Baltic countries could interoperate anywhere in the region.EFE


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