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Spain is to deploy a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) unit to Estonia in April 2023 for an initial period of four months.

The deployment was agreed between the two countries’ defence ministers, Margarita Robles and Hanno Pevkur respectively, at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels on 14 February 2023.

“The Eastern flank of NATO has grown its muscle significantly over the past year,” said Pevkur. “Considering the need to fill this critical gap in our medium-range air defence capabilities, I am very glad that we reached an agreement with Spain on the deployment of their NASAMS medium-range ground-based air defence system for four months, starting this April.”

Pevkur noted that this was a short-term fix while the country prepares a more sustainable solution in conjunction with its Baltic neighbours.

Meeting at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels on 14 February 2023, the defence ministers of Estonia and Spain, Hanno Pevkur and Margarita Robles respectively, agreed on the deployment of a Spanish NASAMS unit to Estonia in April 2023. (Photo: Estonian MoD)

“With Latvia and Lithuania we made a proposal in NATO to establish an air defence rotation model, similar to the Baltic Air Policing mission currently in place. Therefore, hopefully subsequent rotations in co-operation with allies will also become possible,” Pevkur added.

“It is also very important that, thanks to the deployment of the NASAMS unit in Estonia, we will learn the tactical specifics of a medium-range air defence system. In addition, it will give our defence forces and air force the experience of integrating a medium-range air defence system with other defence systems.”

The objective of the Spanish NASAMS unit in Estonia will be to defend Ämari Air Base, which is used by NATO fighters to fulfil the alliance’s Baltic Air Policing mission in the absence of the Baltic states having their own fighter capabilities. The unit will be deployed to Estonia under the command of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

A Spanish NASAMS unit has already been deployed to Latvia; it arrived in Lielvarde in mid-June 2022 and completed its readiness certification in November 2022. The two systems in Latvia and Estonia will be linked and form part of NATO’s Eastern flank air and missile defence.

The procurement of Estonia’s own medium-range air defence system is in the final stages, according to the Estonian Ministry of Defence, with the aim of finalising a contract before the summer of 2023.

Peter Felstead