Commander of the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) Cdre Jüri Säska told AK that: “We have made a proposal on what will be procured and from where. This proposal comes from the Commander of the Defense Forces to the government, and from there, depending on the stage of the crisis the country is in, decisions also get made on who has the authority to do what.”
The Defense Investment Center (RKIK) has inked the deal with a Finnish firm, while the procurement process for anti-ship missiles is also in progress, AK reported.
Asko Kivinuk, head of the RKK’s air and naval category, told AK that: “We are in negotiations, and the expected timing for entering into a procurement or contract is this year.”
The newly-procured sea mines will bring with them a steep learning curve on their use, given tech advances in the arena, Cdre Saska added.
He said: “We haven’t rehearsed many practical skills with regard to how to submerge them in water lately, I admit, at least not in the way we will be doing it now. And this has changed – there are fewer people, and more computers.”
The procurement deal includes the software used in deploying the mines.
Sea mines form a key part of Estonia’s long-term strategic vision, with coastal defenses seen as critical in permitting freedom of movement at sea, both for Estonian vessels and those of its allies, and in defending against seaborne assaults and the consequent opening up of further land fronts, AK said.
The manufacturer has not been named publicly, Asko Kivinuk added, and neither has the procurement price tag or quantity of sea mines ordered, with Cdre Saska simply calling the planned volume “significant”, and also durable for a time-frame measurable in decades.
The first ordnance supplies will reach Estonia by the end of this year – the procurement deal itself was signed six months ago, AK reported.
Overall, sea mines are a deterrent, Cdre Saska said. If an enemy knows sea mines are in an area, this makes it more challenging to attack via sea; the location of such mines will only be revealed on a need-to-know basis to key people in the navy.
One of the most challenging areas is programming sea mines to recognize friend from foe and deploy effectively and in time, in the case of the latter, all of which means that IT professionals are now being employed by the Estonian Navy, while the required training will also be put in place.
The Merevägi is organizationally a part of the Estonian Defense Forces, rather than being a separate service, and has extensive experience in mine clearing, both off its own shores, as world war two-era and other dated ordnance slowly gets cleared from Estonian waters, and internationally, via the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1), which the navy contributes to.