Estonia has signed an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries to procure advanced long-range loitering munitions – known as kamikaze drones – making it the one of the most expensive defence procurements Estonia has ever made.
The procurement of long-range loitering munitions aims to strengthen Estonia’s defence capability by significantly increasing its indirect fire capabilities. Along with extended range artillery ammunition, anti-ship missiles and multiple launch rocket systems, Estonia will have various capabilities to target the adversary from long distances in the near future, Israel Aerospace Industries said in a statement.
“Long-range loitering munitions are an important addition to the development of Estonia’s defence capability. The importance of indirect fire cannot be overestimated, as Russia has caused much of the destruction in Ukraine through indirect fire,” Hanno Pevkur, the Estonian defence minister, said in a statement.
“The introduction of this new capability allows us to attack the enemy from a longer distance. As a result, indirect fire becomes more layered and flexible, increasing the range of fire, which means that the defense forces can hit the enemy where it hurts.”
Munition that loiters around the target area
The Estonian Defence Forces’ indirect fire capability is provided by various caliber mortars in the composition of maneuver units and self-propelled howitzers in divisional composition. In 2024-2025, multiple rocket launchers and long-range loitering munitions units will also be created within the Defence Forces.
The first deliveries are expected to arrive in 2024, with the necessary training provided to the Estonian Defence Forces before deployment. The Estonian military will be ready to use the systems as soon as they arrive.
A loitering munition – also known as a suicide drone or a kamikaze drone – is an aerial weapon system category in which the munition can loiter around the target area for some time and attacks only once a target is located.
Loitering munitions enable faster reaction times against concealed or hidden targets that emerge for short periods without placing high-value platforms close to the target area, and also allow more selective targeting as the attack can be changed midflight or aborted.