Estonia is facing mounting pressure to purchase MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles from the United States, despite the fact that the U.S. is phasing out this aging missile system.
This issue came to light in a recent report by ETV news show ‘Aktuaalne kaamera’ (AK), as per Estonia’s ERR News.
The decision to persist with ATACMS purchases has triggered debate and speculation, especially as newer, long-range missile systems emerge.
ATACMS, in service since 1991, can be fired from the tracked M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and the wheeled M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Both systems have been used in Estonian exercises, with HIMARS gaining recognition for its effectiveness in Ukraine against Russian forces.
The M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS are currently the focus of procurement by Estonia's Center for Defense Investments (RKK). Despite the U.S. discontinuing ATACMS since 2007, Estonia's decision to persist with these missile purchases has raised eyebrows.
Efforts are reportedly underway to supply ATACMS missiles to Ukraine. However, due to depleting U.S. stockpiles, stemming from ATACMS discontinuation, Ukraine has not received any yet.
While Estonia has not used ATACMS missiles in exercises, Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) artillery personnel gained familiarity with HIMARS during large-scale rehearsals involving U.S. personnel in the spring.
Estonia aims to acquire missile systems with a range of 70km or more. It signed a 2022 deal with the U.S. for HIMARS launchers, missiles, and related equipment, with deliveries slated for 2025. The deal also includes up to 18 ATACMS missiles.
RKK Director Magnus Saar told the news outlet that their order includes the latest variant, the M-57, which has a range of up to 300 km. Future acquisitions depend on U.S. permissions.
Transferring weaponry to Ukraine from other countries requires consent from those nations, as demonstrated when Estonia sought to send aging 105mm howitzers, necessitating approval from Finland and Germany.
The need for longer-range missiles has become evident in the ongoing conflict. EDF reservist Col. Hannes Toomsalu noted that after Ukraine received HIMARS, the Russians no longer positioned critical targets within firing range.
The U.S. military is testing the Precision Strike Missile (PSM), with a maximum range of 500km, expected to replace ATACMS.