TALLINN, Estonia: The defense ministries of Estonia and Latvia have announced that they are planning to jointly acquire German air defense systems for the protection of the two NATO nations' airspace.
The agreement would be the largest defense cooperation between the Baltic neighbors bordering Russia.
The medium-range IRIS-T SLM air defense system, manufactured by weapons maker Diehl Defense of Germany, could be delivered next year and be operational in 2025.
The two defense ministries did not confirm the value of the purchase or number of units to be bought, adding that talks with Diehl are ongoing.
In a statement, Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said the agreement is "a joint project of historical proportions for our defense cooperation, the largest one to date" between Tallinn and Riga.
"Presuming that negotiations are successful, we, Estonia and Latvia, hope to reach the contract and, subsequently, announce the official winning bidder this summer," Pevkur said.
In a statement, Latvian Defense Minister Inara Murniece said, "Our jointly selected medium-range air defense system will further secure the skies of Latvia and Estonia and will provide the maximum possible protection for our people, as well as civil and military infrastructure."
The IRIS-T SLM air defense system is designed to protect cities, armies and civilian population from air attacks, and is effective against aircraft, helicopters and a host of other threats, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and munitions.
Germany earlier delivered such air defense systems to Ukraine, where they are reported to have been successfully used against Russian targets.