Comprehensive air defense system beyond the means for Baltic states

Developing and maintaining a comprehensive air defense system is beyond the means for the Baltic countries acting on their own, a report by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) based in Tallinn says.

The report recommends that the Baltic countries focus on developing command and signals systems and harmonizing their short and medium range air defense systems.

According to the report on the possibilities for strengthening the Baltic countries’ air defense system presented by the ICDS to the Estonian Ministry of Defense, the effective functioning of an air defense system is multi-tier by nature, consisting of a well-functioning early warning system, surveillance capabilities, weapons systems, as well as well-trained personnel capable of leading air defense operations and operating air defense systems.

The authors of the report note that in the context of the Baltic region, cooperation between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is important, just like cooperation with allies in the framework of NATO. Air defense is important both for ensuring the independent defense capability as well as for protecting the allied troops already deployed here or to be transfered here in the event of a crisis.

The report says that finding a sustainable solution to the challenges related to air defense can only happen in collaboration between the Baltic countries and allies, as developing and maintaining a comprehensive air defense system is beyond the means for the Baltic countries acting on their own.

The report advises the Baltic countries to focus on developing command and signals systems compatible with NATO air defense and harmonizing the short and medium range air defense systems. NATO is advised to equip the units rotated into the area for training with short-range air defense assets, and transfer medium and long range air defense systems to the Baltic countries in the course of exercises, exchange the single integrated air picture with Finland and Sweden, and set out and rehearse procedures for a switch from the NATO air policing mission to an air defense mission.

One of the authors of the report, director of the ICDS Sven Sakkov, said that the report demonstrates very clearly how complex developing and maintaining a modern air defense system is. Even though Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have done a lot over the years to fill the gaps, much remains to be done. According to Sakkov, the report clearly says that the implementation of a comprehensive air defense system in the region requires actions on the part of the allies and all of NATO.

The report was commissioned by the Estonian Ministry of Defense with the aim of compiling a comprehensive picture of the existing air defense system and the system necessary in the Baltic region in the future. Its authors are U.K. Air Marshal Christopher Harper, Sven Sakkov, and ICDS Research Fellow Tony Lawrence.

The survey will be presented at the Lennart Meri Conference to take place in Tallinn over the weekend.

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