At Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur gave an overview of the steps being taken to increase the capability of the Defence League, including the training, equipping, and manning of territorial defence, which will increase to 20,000 fighters.
“Building the capabilities of the Defence League and increasing military territorial defence is one of the most important lessons learned from the war in Ukraine,” said Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur. “One of the most important tasks of the Defence League is to prepare territorial defence units for wartime.”
The Land Forces will be doubled from 9,500 combatants to 20,000 combatants by the start of 2024, which means they will need to be equipped, armed and trained. The Government of the Republic decided to increase territorial defence in the spring of 2022, following the Russian attack on Ukraine, allocating an additional EUR 30 million to the Defence League.
A total of EUR 132 million is planned for the procurement of equipment for territorial defence as a whole over the next four years. This includes, for example, individual combatant load-carrying systems, night vision and thermal equipment. Means of transport and ammunition are also being acquired.
Tenders for equipping additional territorial defence units are being carried out by the Centre for Defence Investment, and the arrival of the equipment is planned for the first half of 2023.
The additional territorial defence personnel will receive intensive training in 2023, which will be based on the principle of flexibility and will involve active servicemen from both the Defence League and the Defence Forces. Both unit administration and rank-and-file will be trained.
In 2023, EUR 7 million has been planned for the organisation of training sessions for the additional territorial defence personnel. In addition, the budget includes an additional ammunition expenditure – nearly EUR 2.2 million.
“Doubling territorial defence also requires additional training, and for this, the Defence League must be given the necessary resources,” said Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur.
During the most intensive training periods, additional instructors will be included on a voluntary basis from among individuals in the reserve. An additional fee will be paid to the person who signed the agreement to provide training. The training is planned in stages during the second half of 2023.
“Ensuring adequate wartime training, including for territorial defence units, and the constant updating of knowledge and skills is crucial for the functioning of the reserve army,” said Pevkur.
The state budget allocation to the Defence League will increase to EUR 50 million. In 2021, the amount of the allocation was EUR 38.6 million, in 2022 it was EUR 48.5 million.
“The work of the Defence League is important and their activities must be supported. This strengthens the defensive will of the Estonian people and their readiness to defend their country,’ said Pevkur.
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