Spain will deploy a NASAMS air defence system to Estonia in April for a period of four months.
The deployment was agreed by the Spanish defence minister, Margarita Robles, and her Estonian counterpart, Hanno Pevkur, at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels on 14 February.
According to Pevkur, as Estonia awaits the arrival of its own air defence systems, it is important that allied support is present. “The Eastern flank of NATO has grown its muscle significantly over the past year. Considering the need to fill this critical gap in our medium-range air defence capabilities, I am very glad 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,” he said in a statement.
The Estonian defence minister added that the NASAMS unit will enable the Estonian Defence Forces to learn the tactical specifics of a medium-range air defence system.
Defending the Ämari Air Base
The objective of the NASAMS unit in Estonia will be the defence of the Ämari Air Base. The unit is combat-ready and will be deployed to Estonia on the command of the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. A similar unit has been deployed to Latvia – the two systems will be linked and will be part of NATO’s Eastern flank air and missile defence.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have made a joint proposal in NATO to establish an air defence rotation model in the Baltic states – similarly to the Baltic Air Policing mission currently in place. With the air policing mission, larger NATO member states rotate their fighter jets for the defence of the Baltic air space. The rotation usually lasts six months, with the Ämari Air Base in Estonia and the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania hosting four allied jets each.
Estonia will also buy its own air defence systems – HIMARS multiple rocket launcher systems from Lockheed Martin.
Developed for Norway
The NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) is a short to medium-range ground-based air defence system developed by the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and the US defence firm Raytheon. The system defends against unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, cruise missiles, unmanned combat aerial vehicles and fixed wing aircraft, firing any of a wide range of existing missiles.
The development of NASAMS began in the 1980s when Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace teamed up with Hughes Missile Systems and initiated the programme as a cooperative effort for the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
The system is in use in Australia, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the US.