Lithuania wants to acquire 50 battle tanks to arm its new mechanized division

Lithuania Boxer

Like the two other Baltic states, Lithuania, which joined NATO in March 2004 and the European Union 2 months later, devotes a relatively large part of its wealth to its armies, with a defense effort reaching 2.53% of GDP in 2023, while the country shares a border of 227 km with Russia (Kaliningrad Enclave) and 567 km with its Belarusian ally. Its armed forces today consist of 23,000 active professional soldiers, the majority in the land forces, and 28,000 reservists forming, in particular, one of the country's 3 brigades, the Aukštaitija light brigade formed in 2017. In addition, the country hosts permanent NATO deployments, on the Šiauliai air base with a detachment of 4 fighters as part of the Baltic Air Policy mission, as well as a mechanized battalion of 3,700 men under German command deployed in the country since 2017 as a reassurance measure in the face of rising tensions with Russia.

In addition to the reserve Aukštaitija brigade, the Lithuanian land forces consist of two brigades, a mechanized infantry brigade in the Kaunas region, and a motorized infantry brigade based in Klaipėda on the Baltic coast. These are today equipped with 89 German-Dutch 8x8 Boxer infantry fighting vehicles acquired in 2017 and whose delivery will continue until 2026, as well as 260 M113 armored transport vehicles acquired second-hand from the Bundeswehr in the early 2000s. If the order for 120 additional Boxers is currently being discussed, and if the country has also invested in powerful heavy mobile artillery with 21 PZH-2000 tracked self-propelled guns in service, as well as 18 CAESAR French NG and 8 American Himars ordered this year, the two Lithuanian brigades however clearly lack direct fire firepower and armor, if they had to face, alongside their NATO allies, a Russian offensive.

CESARE NG e1672750529410
Last June, Lithuania joined the CAESAR NG program and announced the acquisition of 18 systems.

This is why the country plans to acquire a fleet of 50 combat tanks in order to arm a new battalion, in a global effort aimed at increasing the operational format of its land forces up to the level of a division. mechanized. The information, initially revealed by Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas, was confirmed yesterday by Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšys, Chief of Staff of the Lithuanian Armed Forces . The fact is, with 17,000 men gathered in 2 professional brigades, the bulk of the 28,000 reservists in a light brigade, as well as a mechanized fleet lining up 50 heavy tanks, 209 Boxer infantry fighting vehicles, 39 modern 155 mm tubes and 8 long-range, high-precision rocket launchers and protected by 2 NASAMS medium-range anti-aircraft batteries, the Lithuanian division will probably not have much to envy of the French, British or Italian divisions, if indeed these countries are actually able to deploy a mechanized division, even though with only 2.8 million inhabitants and a GDP of $70 billion, the country has only 4% of the population and 2.3% of the wealth of 'a country like France.

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