UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Estonia Air Force

The Air Force is comprised of Air Force Staff, the Air Force Base located at Ämari and the Air Surveillance Wing. The primary mission of the Air Base is providing Host Nation Support for Estonian and NATO aircraft. The primary mission of the Air Surveillance Wing is to control Estonia’s airspace.

Estonian Air Force has long and fascinating history. The roots of the current organization go back to the 21 November 1918 when the Commander of Engineering Battalion Voldemar Victor Riiberg assigned August Roos to organize the flight unit. The Independence War gave great impulses to the development of the young Air Force. Estonian Air Force had more than 130 modern aircraft in the middle of 1930s. The organization consisted then the Naval Aviation Group, Flight School, Air Base, Air Defence Artillery Group. Estonian engineers designed and constructed the fighter aircrafts, which were with outstanding performance. Estonian Air Force was re-established on 16 December 1991. The main goals were to gain the control over Estonian airspace and air defence of strategic objects. The Air force consist of three units today; the Air Force Staff, the Air Force Base, and the Air Surveillance Wing.

Air Surveillance has significant impact to the enhancement of the general flight safety.

  • To establish an air surveillance capability, and based on that , to begin the development of a national air defence system. To establish an air defence command and control capability.
  • To build up Ämari airfield as a prospective main NATO interoperable airfield and part of host nation support in Estonia.
  • To establish an Air Force communication and information system, which is interoperable with relevant NATO Integrated Extended Air Defence System NATIENADS. To develop a data exchange systems in the Air Force.
  • To prepare a rotary wing component of the Air Force
The Estonian Air Force needs to reduce the political, military, economical, social, environmental and psychological threats. The entire civilized world experienced the reality of increased terrorist threats during the last year. The Air Force has important role in enhancing flight safety in Estonian airspace. One of the main goals of the Air Force is to build up an air surveillance system, which will be the cornerstone of the air traffic safety and airspace control. The second priority is the development of the Host Nation Support capabilities for air operations with further implementation of crucial peacetime Air Defence capability - Air Policing. One important milestone will be the development of the air surveillance system to the level, which allows close cooperation with the NATO air defence system. The purpose of Ämari Air Base is to work together with NATO and partner nations air forces and provide the standardized airfield and aircraft services to provide the Host Nation Services. In its nature, the Ämari airfield maintenance, aircraft support, air navigation services and air traffic control need to be updated to the NATO standards to provide high level of services and guarantee the required flight safety level.

Estonian Annual National Plan and partnership goals determine the most prioritized co-operation areas for nearest years. The most important of them are:

  • To establish air surveillance capability, and based on that, to begin the development of a national air defence system. To establish an air defence command and control capability
  • Installation of identification systems, which are interoperable with NATO equipment
  • The upgrade of navigation and communication equipment
  • Establishing the required level for Ämari airfield operations and infrastructure
  • To provide the aircraft ground services according the required international standards
For Air Surveillance system, the installation of new long-range primary radar TPS-77 will help to reach qualitatively new level of operational capabilities. After connecting the new radar to the network, the identification of all aircraft, including those, which are not eagerly willing to co-operate with air traffic navigation services, will be remarkably easier. It will be huge step towards enhancement of air traffic safety and developing the international co-operation in air surveillance field as well as meet the terms of the obligations taken with international treaties.

Estonian Air Force officers and NCO's are been participating on various international exercises. On other hand, Estonia hosted international exercise Baltic Challenge with more than three thousand participants on 1997. During this exercise, which was conducted to train humanitarian operations, involved the aeromedical fights and paratroop training in the Ämari Air Base. Air Force personnel have been participating in numerous international exercises since 1995. Estonian Air Force personnel has actively participated in Cooperative Zenith, Cooperative Banners, Cooperative Automation, Strong Resolve, Cooperative Support and MEDCEUR exercises. The Estonian Air Force participated with one aircraft and with larger crew than usual on exercises Cooperative Bear 1999 in Poland and Baltic Link 2000. There has been close co-operation with Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the US Air Forces in recent years. Estonian Air Force has some form of co-operation with twenty different countries. The supporting relations with different domestic co-operation partners will give great assistance for the Air Force related education and science. The most remarkable partners in Estonia in this field are Tartu Aviation College and Tallinn Technical University.

Estonian Air Force had more than 80 international co-operational events during 2000. The increase in international co-operation during the 2002 was more than ten percent and the total number of events was more than 90. The most important areas were air traffic management and air defence seminars and education courses. Equally important were the events on command and control, language training, logistics, military doctrine and education related seminars and courses. All international co-operational events gave good results and helped to enhance the Air Force interoperability in wide span of specialties. There has been going on continuous co-operation with Baltic States within the framework of BALTNET in the Air Surveillance area, which is the one of the highest priority of Estonian Air Force. To educate the air surveillance operators more effectively, the Baltic States combined air surveillance training center was created. The first basic air surveillance course, aimed to the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian air surveillance operators, started in April of 2002.

The Estonian Air Force has close co-operation with the Scandinavian Countries to enhance the Ämari Air Base operational potential and to develop host nation support capabilities. The most important factors, which determine the international interoperability of Ämari Airfield, are: cargo handling capabilities, airfield maintenance, search and rescue operation and ground support to the aircraft. The closest partners in developing the host nation support capabilities at the Ämari Airfield are Sweden and Denmark. These Scandinavian countries are in the process of closing few airbases and as a result of this, spare airfield and aircraft maintenance equipment become available. To meet the high standardization requirements, the education and training programs belong inevitably to the acquisition of any sophisticated equipment.

One of the goals of the national air surveillance system is the detecting and identifying all flying objects in Estonian airspace. The primary mission of the unit is the development of the national air surveillance system to the level that allows to detect and identify all flying objects in Estonian airspace with maximal probability and transmit information about their location and movement with sufficient degree of accuracy on 24 hour basis. Current operations are carried out mainly in the framework of international cooperation and BALTNET project. The main mission of the Air Surveillance Wing, besides the operation of technical systems, will be information processing and collection from radiolocational surveillance systems, interceptor fighters during their patrol flights and from other airspace surveillance sensors. Structurally is air surveillance subsystem of air defence system. Air Surveillance Wing was created on 1 January 1998 and is located at the Ämari Air Base.

Active duty service members will receive the required training in the RASCC training center in Republic of Lithuania and in their own unit. The training consists of receiving basic knowledge of air surveillance plus skills and knowledge to operate the ASOC.

Under the Estonian Long Term Defence Development Plan 2009–2018, approved by the Government of the Republic of Estonia on 22 January 2009, some capabilities were identified as necessary for national defence, but as too expen sive for Estonia and can be achieved only in cooperation with NATO and Allies. In the case of Estonia, such capabilities are, for example, fi ghter aircraft and attack helicopters. Strategic Airlift Capability is another example of capabilities in this category, and to ensure this, Estonia has joined NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) project.

Under Plan 2018, Estonia will complete the reconstruction of Ämari Air Base, which will enable fi ghter aircraft of our NATO Allies to reside in Ämari, just as they do in Lithuania today. Within the 10-year planning period Estonia will not develop her own air policing capability, while a study for search of solution after 2018 has been launced in cooperation with Latvia and Lithuania. Ämari Air Base will also play an important role as a host nation support (HNS) air base whenever a need for Allied reinforcement would be required to guarantee security of Estonia. Upon completion of reconstruction works, Ämari will have the capability to receive strategic transport aircraft and the capability to process cargo.

According to the Plan 2018, a mobile short to medium-range air defence capability will be developed during the next decade, and the existing short-range air defence capability will be improved. The medium-range air defence includes relevant surveillance and command systems and assets that can destroy targets at a distance of up to 30 km. When shortrange air defence is considered only for protection of a specific object or unit, then the planned short to medium-range air defence will be suitable for defending the airspace of an entire large city and its surroundings. As Estonia is developing a mobile system, this capability is not related to the defence of a specifi c area, but will be located according to requirements, for example to defend the airspace of Tallinn, or to defend a specific battle area or to secure an HNS operation.

According to the Plan 2018, the short-range air defence capability will also be improved. Currently, the short-range air defence capability is comprised of the air defence battalion (as part of the infantry brigade), equipped with the SAM system Mistral and the anti-aircraft twin autocannon ZU-23-2. According to the Plan 2018, the existing number of missile systems will be increased and additional air defence units will be established in defence districts.

In addition to the requirement for additional radars, a clear need for transport helicopters was identifi ed during the planning process. The helicopters to be acquired should be multifunctional. In peace time they should enable the transportation of personnel, performance of monitoring fl ights, support medical evacuation, and support to other government agencies. An adequate search and rescue (SAR) capability is one of the preconditions for potential basing and operating air policing assets in Estonia.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 23-11-2012 14:24:39 ZULU