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Estonia Army

The Army is the main arm of the Defence Forces. The Army development priorities are the capability to participate in missions outside the national territory and the capability to perform operations to protect the territory of Estonia, also in co-operation with the Allies. The Army component of the operational structure consists of an infantry brigade and a homeland security structure. Deployable infantry battalion tactical group and some deployable CS, CSS units will developed in the Army structure in accordance with NATO Force Proposals requirements. Infantry brigade will act as a training and support frame for deployable units. Homeland security structure units will have the capability to carry out territorial military tasks and support civil structures.

The largest service of the Defence Forces of Estonia is comprised of a total of 12 units and a training center. The largest training centers are the Tapa Combat Support Training Centre, and The Battle School of the Defence Forces in Vru. The main task of the training centres is the training of reserve units comprised of conscripts. Stationed in Paldiski are the 1st Infantry Brigade as well as the Scouts Battalion. The task of the 1st Infantry Brigade is the training of units heading for foreign operations. The Scouts Battalion is comprised only of professional members of the Defence Forces. The task of the Battalion is to ensure the rapid reaction capability of the Defence Forces of Estonia.

In July 1993, Estonia saw the dissension within the army erupt into a minor mutiny among a group of several dozen recruits serving in Pullap in western Estonia. The unit was upset over poor treatment during a mission in which it had been ordered to take control of parts of the former Russian military town of Paldiski. In protest, members of the group declared their intention to leave the Estonian army and devote their efforts to fighting organized crime. The Estonian government ordered the dissolution of the unit but eventually backed down. Hain Rebas resigned as defense minister over the government's inaction while also claiming an inability to work with some of the army's Soviet-trained commanders. The leaders of the infantry unit went free until their capture in November following a shoot-out with police.

More outside help in improving Estonia's armed forces came with the purchase in January 1993 of more than US$60 million in Israeli light arms. The contract, signed by the government in private talks with TAAS-Israel Industries, later caused a political storm when many deputies in parliament questioned whether Estonia had gotten a fair deal. The government nevertheless convinced the Riigikogu in December to ratify the agreement. While increasing the army's firepower, part of the weaponry was also to go to Estonia's border guard. Estonia's Nordic neighbors also were active in building up the country's defenses. Finland, Sweden, and Germany all donated patrol boats, uniforms, and small transport aircraft to equip the new soldiers. No arms sales, however, were considered.

The Estonian Army worked hard to rid itself of all traces of the Soviet days. Soviet-educated officers were initially common, but Estonian-educated officers are now the norm except at the highest levels. The Estonian Army replaced its Soviet equipment with Western equipment Finnish armored personnel carriers, German and Finnish howitzers, Swedish and German machine guns, and the Israeli Galil and the Swedish AK-4 assault rifles. All ammunition conforms to NATO standards. The primary ground force is a brigade. Two of the battalions are manned by conscripts, while the third has volunteer soldiers. This professional battalion has deployed on foreign tours to Bosnia, southern Lebanon, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Estonian Army deployments last six months.

Under the Estonian Long Term Defence Development Plan 20092018, approved by the Government of the Republic of Estonia on 22 January 2009, some capabilities were identified as necessary for national defence, but as unreachable within the next 10 years. Such capabilities identified during programming were, for example, multiple launch rocket systems with a range of up to 70 kilometers and surface-to-surface missile systems required for destroying surface naval targets. The development of such capabilities could be considered after 2018 or in case some other projects in development will have signifi cantly lower resource implications than originally planned. The development of a high readiness infantry brigade will remain as one of the main priorities for the land forces. In addition to the professional Scouts Battalion, the brigade is comprised of reserve infantry battalions and support units. Similarly to today, one infantry battalion and about a third of all support units of the brigade will be formed and trained from conscripts during an annual training cycle. Over the following years, reserve trainings will also be enhanced to better guarantee combat readiness of the units of the defence forces. Mechanised units will improve combat capability.

According to the Plan 2018, mechanised units will be developed within the brigade framework over the next decade. This will be achieved by acquiring either tanks or infantry fi ghting vehicles and by training a respective unit. In conclusion, mechanisation will give the infantry brigade a better defence, increased fi repower and greater mobility on battlefi eld. The PASI armoured personnel carriers used by the Scouts Battalion currently are primarily meant for transport of the infantry. Whether the formation of mechanised units will take place through the procurement of tanks or infantry fighting vehicles will be decided based on additional analysis. The development of mechanised units will become one of the most challenging and resource-heavy projects during the planning period that would require training of additional personnel and development of complex logistic support.

One of the important priorities of the Plan 2018 is to further upgrade the anti-tank capabilities of the EDF. This includes additional acquisition of one-shot anti-tank weapons, recoilless rifles and the anti-tank guided missile systems Milan. Also, additional units will be established both in the EDF and in the Defence League. The goal for the development of these capabilities will be to increase the general fi repower of the infantry in combat.

Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu said in March 2013 that Estonia had a 10-year defense development plan, but the current situation has changed the urgency of having fully developed defense capabilities. Our goal is to field two brigades, one of which one should be armored, he said, adding that all parties should come to an agreement over a defense capability plan, after which the question of funding should be tackled. "We need two brigades to have real defensive capability. We will get one brigade up to readiness in a year's time. With the current funding level, the complete arming and outfitting of the second one is envisioned after 2018. But we need to make an effort to achieve that readiness level earlier, along with outfitting the first brigade with comprehensive armored maneuvering capability."





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