For example, under a 2010 air situation data exchange agreement with the alliance, “Estonia's radar data will go to Finland and their data will come to the NATO system,” Tarien said.
Arto Raty, Finland's permanent secretary of the nation's defense ministry, says while the cooperative effort was nearly a decade in the making, in the end it proved that NATO's “Smart Defense” effort to promote multinational programs in order to make best use of shrinking defense budgets can work.
“This is a living example of smart procurement,” Raty said during a March ceremony here to inaugurate the GM 403 radar post. “It is something the European nations have been careful to study and take as a reference when they make their own decisions.”
In the meantime, Estonia is putting the finishing touches on its updated Amari air base near Tallinn, an $86-million effort co-financed with NATO that will allow the country to host the alliance's ongoing air policing missions over the Baltic states for periods of up to three months.
In addition, Amari will host two major training exercises this year: The Estonian army's Spring Storm exercise in May will host a squadron of Polish Sukhoi Su-22s, followed by Saber Strike 2013, which will see U.S. A-10s and KC-135 tankers conducting air operations from the base.
In January, Tallinn approved a new 10-year military modernization plan through 2022 that will fund defense at 2% of GDP, or about $430 million per year, 40% of which is devoted to procurement. In addition to the GM 403 radar, the strategy calls for equipping an army battalion with light infantry vehicles, new anti-tank missiles and self-propelled howitzers under a tender expected to be underway by 2016.
“We are building our defense forces from scratch, and in the past on the procurement side we sometimes forgot that besides buying something there are maintenance, operations, personnel and training costs,” Parnamae said. “So we tried to calculate the whole cost of equipment over the lifecycle, and this is new. But it means the list is now shorter, even though the threat picture hasn't changed. The question is, for example, which is more important, to get armored maneuver capability or helicopters? We chose armored maneuver capability.”