Today, Estonia concluded a procurement contract, together with the Finnish Ministry of Defence and the French company Thales-Raytheon Systems, for the procurement of two 3D medium range radar systems, which will cover Estonia and its surrounding airspace with a single radar image.

Estonia and Finland will together procure a total of 14 radar systems of the Ground Master 403 series. The two radar systems intended for Estonia are meant to supplement Estonia’s current sole 3D medium range radar in Kellavere, in West-Viru County, and to also provide a sufficient air surveillance image for Western and South-eastern Estonia.

The formidable air surveillance image created thanks to the procurement will increase early warning time in case of possible crisis situations, and is also the prerequisite for the operation of air policing fighter craft and air defence missile systems, the procurement of which is planned for the future. Also, as a member of NATO, Estonia is required to provide elementary radar coverage on its territory and to some extent also outside of the Alliance’s external border.

Minister of defence Jaak Aaviksoo expressed hope that the joint procurement with Finland creates good premise for future joint procurements. “Several priorities of the Estonian National defence development plan for 2009-2018 – air surveillance and defence, communications and command systems, rapid response capability – overlap with the long-term planning directions of Finnish national defence,” noted Aaviksoo.

According to Finland’s Minister of Defence, Jyri Häkämies, the joint radar procurement with Estonia benefits both parties. “Combining our procurements is very economical financially. And the cooperation, in terms of procurements and equipment, also strengthens the relations between Estonia’s and Finland’s national defence structures,” said Minister of Defence Häkämies.

For Estonia, the procurement totals MEEK 350, to be paid based on a flexible schedule for payments during the period 2009-2014. Since Finland and Estonia have procured a total of 14 radar systems, the producer can, thanks to production efficiency, offer the systems at very reasonable prices – technically Estonia gets two radar systems for the price of one thanks to the joint procurement with Finland.

The Thales-Raytheon Systems Ground Master 403 radar systems are capable of detecting aircraft at a range of up to 470 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km. These are mobile systems, meaning that when necessary the radar can be relocated from its permanent position and set up elsewhere within an hour.

In addition to two primary radar systems, the procurement includes secondary radar systems, generators for the radar systems, containers, vehicles, training and radomes (domes to cover the radar systems when they are in their stationary positions).

According to the procurement contract, Thales-Raytheon Systems has the obligation to make offset purchases with a procurement contract of similar scope from Estonian enterprises. Preferable for the offset purchases would be areas such as research and development, strategic goods and high-tech goods. This way, the radar procurement also provides support for the development of innovative and high-tech industries in Estonia. The spectrum of the offset purchases reaches from the export of products and services, research and development, investments and technology transfers to corresponding marketing support.

The Estonian and Finnish Ministries of Defence concluded a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2007, for carrying out the joint radar procurement. According to the memorandum, the Finnish Air Force, with the participation of the Estonian Ministry of Defence and experts of the Defence Forces, prepared an invitation for tender to determine the most suitable radar system.

One of the priorities of the National defence development plan for 2009-2018, which was approved by the government in January 2009, is the further development of the reconnaissance, surveillance and early warning systems of the Estonian Defence Forces. The procurement for the air surveillance radar systems is the first of the larger procurements planned in the recently approved development plan.