Latvia signs order for German IRIS-T air defenses



MILAN — The Latvian government has inked a contract worth roughly €600 million ($650 milliion) with Germany’s Diehl Defence for the company’s IRIS-T medium-range air defense system, the manufacturer announced on Monday.

The deal, signed on Nov. 30, is the Baltic country’s “biggest defense investment since its independence more than 30 years ago,” Diehl said in a statement. It follows a framework agreement the company previously signed with Latvia and Estonia in September.

“The joint procurement by the two Baltic nations of one type of air defense system will allow them to save budgetary funds, facilitate mutual coordination in the defense of the Baltic States region and the interoperability of systems and components,” the Dec. 4 Diehl statement reads.

Under the contract, Riga is to begin receiving IRIS-T components in 2026.

The Latvian and Estonian governments have been vocal regarding their interest in jointly procuring these types of weapons to establish a multi-layered air defense system amid Russian threats to Baltic security.

In recent comments made to Polish media by Jacek Siewiera, head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, he warned that states making up NATO’s eastern flank have roughly three years to effectively prepare for a potential confrontation with Russia.

The IRIS-T SLM is designed to neutralize threats posed by a variety of enemy aerial systems such as aircraft, cruise missiles, drones and helicopters operating at ranges of up to 40 km (25 miles), per Diehl’s website.

The Ukrainian military has said its forces are employing donated IRIS-T batteries to great effect in protecting population centers. Last month, the German Ministry of Defense announced that four additional IRIS-T SLM would be sent to Kyiv as part of a military aid package worth over $1.4 billion.

The reported successful success in intercepting Russian drones and missiles has become a theme in Diehl’s sales pitches. In its announcement regarding the Latvia order, the company said that the system “convinces with its excellent performance in Ukraine.”

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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