Spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Defence informed that at 12:10 on 17th December 2015, a Russian military Antonov An-72 aircraft has violated the Estonian airspace without receiving proper authorization prior to that. The incident took place close to the island of Vaindloo, and it had a duration shorter than a minute.
According to Tallinn, the Russian aircraft had its transponder turned on. Flight plan had also been made public prior to the flight, however the route was to be placed, in its entirety, in the international airspace. Spokesman for the Ministry also stated that despite the attempts made, in order to make contact, the Russian aircraft did not respond to the radio calls.
Estonian Ministry of Defence submitted a protest to the Russian diplomacy on the same day.
The yesterday’s incident is the third event of this type this year. The previous ones took place in the second half of June and at the beginning of July, also in the vicinity of the Vaindloo island.
Estonia’s capabilities within the scope of air defence are seriously limited, since the army only has ZU-23-2 AAA systems and MBDA Mistral anti-aircraft missiles at its disposal. Thus, Estonia has only VSHORAD systems in its inventory, similarly to the other Baltic States.
Yesterday, on 17th December 2015, Estonia received another lot of the Mistral missiles – this time the latest variant of the weapon. Tallinn is going to become the first foreign user of the Mistral M3 missiles. The new variant’s range is extended, guidance system more effective, and the weapon is less prone to the countermeasures. These missiles are fully compatible with the launchers that are already owned by the Estonian Army.
General value of the contract, on the basis of which the Mistral M3 missiles have been acquired, along with the Milan ATGMs, is EUR 23.8 million. The exact data regarding the acquired missiles has not been released, the Estonian Ministry of Defence only announced that the quantity is “sufficient to defend the country”. The missile utilizes an IR-guidance system.
New Mistral missiles are also a subject of interest for the Hungary. The Hungarians are planning to modernize the Mistral weapons system they already own. Scope of modernization, expected to be realized between 2016 and 2018 shall include, among other works, replacement of the thermal vision sights with the new MATIS MP3 system.
Estonian airspace is being protected at the moment within the framework of the NATO Baltic Air Policing operation, which has been reinforced in the light of the Ukrainian crisis. Amari air base is the location where the NATO fighters are stationed, reinforcing the forces staying in Lithuania. Estonia is also willing to acquire a Medium Range Air Defence system, nonetheless, the exact information within that scope is unavailable. The only piece of news referring to that programme defines the period of implementation, between 2016 and 2022.