Estonia green-lights acquiring short-range air defense missile system

The Estonian government on Thursday gave the green light to acquire a short-range air defense missile system in the largest single weapons purchase deal for the Baltic nation since independence in 1991.

Under the deal, the defense ministry will acquire a ground-to-air, anti-aircraft system from French missile maker MBDA France and Swedish defense company Saab AB consisting of weapons, communications and guiding systems, and radars, the AP reports.

The total value of the deal is around 1 billion Estonian kroons (EUR 64 million, US$83 million) with the system scheduled to be operational by 2009.

"The air defense system to be acquired makes it possible to protect infantry brigades from air attacks domestically as well as on NATO's foreign missions," the defense ministry said in a statement.

Estonia joined NATO in 2004 along with its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania. The country's defense forces have seen a dramatic change since the start of the decade with equipment and troops upgraded and modernized to meet NATO demands.

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