The IRIS-T SLM anti-aircraft system from the German Diehl was jointly chosen by two Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia, to increase the performance of their armed forces in this area.
In 2022, only six NATO member countries invested more than 2% of their GDP for their defense spending. Half of them are represented by the three Baltic countries which, despite their limited resources, are making an exemplary effort in this area, not only from a budgetary point of view, but also from a military and human point of view.
Thus, Estonia, with only 1.3 million inhabitants and a GDP of $38 billion, devotes $1 billion to its armies in 2023, or 2.85% of its GDP, and keeps 7,500 soldiers under the flag, including half are made up of conscripts carrying out 11 months of military service, almost twice as many active soldiers as France when compared to the population.
Latvia, for its part, is doing even better, with 16,000 active military personnel for a population of only 1.9 million inhabitants, and a defense budget of $800 million for a GDP of $40 billion, an effort defense by 2.3%.
However, and despite the particularly present threat for these countries bordering the Baltic Sea and sharing a direct border with Russia, both are subject to significant threshold effects in terms of military capabilities, making it very difficult to implement certain capabilities, such as naval or air forces, as well as modern anti-aircraft defense.
Until now, the two armies were, in this area, limited to portable infantry anti-aircraft systems, the Swedish RBS-70 and the American Stinger for the Latvians, and the French Mistral for the Estonians. If NATO allies deploy air and anti-aircraft capabilities, in addition to mechanized means, in the Baltic countries, Riga and Tallinn intended to increase their own capabilities in this area.
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