Military defence is a guarantor of the capability to ensure Estonia’s sovereignty and deter, obstruct and counter possible military attacks.
The military part of the new National Defence Development Plan 2031 increases Estonia´s independent defence capability and strengthens defence readiness. By actively contributing to national defence, we are sending the message that Estonia is defendable and will defend itself in any case. The National Defence Development Plan is comprehensive, which means that military defence is part of the broader action plan for the country.
Deterrence and defence
Functional deterrence and defence is guaranteed by actual, existing capabilities that we can also maintain. The basis of this activity is the threat situation for the Baltic Sea region, which in turn is the basis for the Commander of Estonian Defence Forces’ military recommendation to develop capabilities. The national defence plan is realistic and considers the available resources, while always continuously supporting civil society and the Estonian economy.
For years, Estonia has stood out for its systematic approach to developing defence capability, for maintaining defence expenditure above 2% of the GDP, and for efficiently carrying out the procurement of equipment. In addition, we test our readiness and skills through large-scale and short notice exercises. Estonia contributes actively to strengthening NATO’s collective defence and participates in military operations. We are an Ally that can always be relied on – whatever we promise, we follow through.
The new development plan sets out a broader wartime structure, increases the protection of units, strengthens the anti-tank capabilities of all units and the 2nd Infantry Brigade’s self-propelled artillery, and contributes to strategic and tactical intelligence. A new multiple rocket launcher unit with regional range capability will be added to the structure. General situational awareness and battle command development will continue. Maritime capability will increase with anti-ship missiles and mines added to armament.
New National Defence Development Plan
The objective of the National Defence Development Plan is to determine a development course that is in line with the available resources and ensures deterrence and the capability to counter enemy aggression. The share of the military part of the national development plan is over 8 billion euros. To create additional capabilities, the Ministry of Defence has carried out reforms in its area of responsibility, aimed at economical and effective outcomes (for example, consolidating personnel services). A large part of the funds directed into state defence finds its way back into the Estonian economy.
Although this development plan represents a leap ahead for state defence over the next 10 years, it is a task that will never be fully completed.
Estonia has a reserve army, which is the most suitable form of defence for a state with limited resources. It is important for the reserve army to be able to reach defence readiness quickly. In the new development plan, we are increasing the number of combatants and creating a supplementary reserve. We are also enhancing territorial defence through including additional Defence League volunteers in military defence.
- We are increasing the Defence Force’s wartime structure from the current 24 200 troops to 26 700 troops. This will be supplemented by an additional reserve of 4 000 Defence League members. That means we are including an additional 3 000 troops in the territorial defence structure.
- The Defence Forces will be responsible for the real-time maritime situational awareness that is in line with wartime standards (awareness of activities on and below surface, amphibious and aerial activities). This is necessary for forming the wartime maritime picture and the common situational awareness with the Allies.
- We are developing the maritime situational awareness and maritime command capability. The NATO BRASS (Broadcast and Ship to Shore) maritime communications complex will be built with NATO co-funding, allowing for better communications between ships and shore.
- Mobile maritime surveillance radars will be put to use and the capacity for exchanges of maritime pictures between the Baltic countries will be created.
- With the decision of the Government, the Defence Forces will be taking over from the Police and Border Guard the task of defending the maritime border and pollution control along with the respective means (ships, crews).
We are increasing the speed, protection and fire range of units, and developing maritime warfare. To update armoured manoeuvring capabilities we are procuring new armament and supplies and developing maritime warfare capabilities. We will increase indirect fire capabilities and shoring up situational awareness and command.
- We will increase our capability to influence the enemy with indirect fire from a distance by creating a multiple rocket launcher unit. The system will be used in fire-and-displace type tactical situations in order to evade the enemy’s counter fire. Its main tasks on the battlefield are suppressing and destroying the enemy, as well as eliminating potential threats before they are realised.
- The 2nd Infantry Brigade will use armoured vehicles (so far transporters).
- To increase the indirect fire coverage area, a K9 self-propelled artillery battalion with 12 weapons will be created at the 2nd Infantry Brigade. The firing range, protection and speed of the battalion will be significantly greater than with the existing 122 mm calibre towed artillery units. (The 122 mm artillery will be decommissioned).
- We will increase the anti-tank capabilities of territorial defence and brigades, and will procure single-use mid-range anti-tank weapons for all infantry brigades. As a result of these developments, the two brigades will become much more similar both in terms of firepower (except for the armoured infantry of the 2nd Infantry Brigade) as well as mobility and protection.
- While the current development plan provided the Defence Forces with new automatic weapons R-20 Rahe, with the new development plan we want to replace the machine guns and Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons.
- We are supplementing the aerial surveillance and anti-aircraft system. An additional mid-range air surveillance radar will be procured for the Defence Force. With extensive co-funding from the United States, the anti-aircraft radars and command and control systems will be updated.
- 2200 engineering and other vehicles will be replaced. Support vehicles will be upgraded and the CV-9035 armoured combat vehicles will be modernised.
- For units participating in missions, we will procure separate armament and supplies kits (including armoured vehicles). That will immediately raise the battle readiness of the 1st Infantry Brigade, since until now equipment for international military operations has been “borrowed” mainly from the 1st Infantry Brigade.
- We will increase the Defence Force command and communications capabilities. The Defence Force will receive a modern battle situation awareness and command system, taking survivability and safe military communications to the next level.
- To deter the enemy on the seas, we will develop anti-ship missile capabilities and procure naval mines. To the existing minehunter capability, which allows keeping waterways open to the Allies, minelaying will provide the opportunity to cut off enemy access paths. With naval mines we will limit the enemy activities on the sea and the missiles will provide a direct intimidation option. To shore up maritime defence, we will procure an extended range anti-ship missile system for the Defence Force.
Continuously developing intelligence gathering and communications capabilities is of key importance in ensuring the necessary early warning for Estonia and our NATO Allies.
- We will continue to develop strategic intelligence and information gathering so that the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Defence Forces´ Intelligence Centre could provide timely early warning.
- We will continue to develop the Defence Forces’ intelligence and monitoring capabilities – both in terms of the required technology as well as the personnel.
- At the tactical level, the intelligence capability will be increased, and we will create ISR (intelligence) battalions (so far companies).
The reserve army is the cornerstone of our defence system, composed of men and women, who have undergone conscription service.
- By 2025 the number of conscripts will increase to 4000, which will provide conscription with even wider societal support.
- The key factor of military defence is human assets: we will raise the number of active servicemen to 3975 by 2030 and keep the salaries of the active servicemen competitive.
- Military territorial defence will be reorganised into smaller units, whose tasks will be more connected to each unit’s home location.
The National Defence Development Plan is realistic and considers the available resources, while continuously always supporting civil society and the Estonian economy.
- A modern War and Disaster Medicine Centre will be built in the Raadi area of Tartu.
- The Ämari airfield will be renovated.
- We will develop the Defence League headquarters and logistics centres. Ammunitions stocks need constant supplementation and renewal. Ca 30 million euros per year are spent on the Defence Forces operation training ammo, and additional expenditure will be made supplementing wartime ammunition stores (the cost for ammunition for one day of battle for the Defence Forces is ca 80-100 million euros).
- We will continue to build Defence Forces training areas and storage facilities, in addition to undertaking a thorough overhaul of the infrastructure in our area of responsibility (including the Defence League headquarters and logistics centres).