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Estonian govt endorses natl defense development plan


TALLINN, Jan 22, BNS - The government here on Thursday gave its nod to the development plan of national defense for 2009-2018 that among other things calls for the purchase of transport helicopters and the creation of armored units, along with preservation of the present model of conscript service.

The plan sets out the main directions of development of military national defense, key development projects and the main investments for the next decade, spokespeople the Defense Ministry have said.

Drawn up in collaboration between the Defense Ministry and the General Staff, the development plan is in conformity with the strategic threat assessment and addresses the gaps in capabilities that have been identified.

The areas to be developed as priority areas are participation in foreign missions and interoperability with NATO, along with the development of corresponding units; development of command, communications, reconnaissance and surveillance systems; developing of the Amari air base; creating of mobile medium-range air defense to a limited extent, and further developing of short-range air defense.

The development plan also calls for the further development of an infantry brigade kept in high readiness, including the creation of armored units using tanks or armored personnel carriers.

It envisages the acquisition of fast boats for the defense of territorial waters and of transport helicopters, further developing of anti-tank capabilities, of the Kaitseliit volunteer corps, and increasing financing for the latter.

The number of professional military would be raised by about 125 people annually and the present model of conscript service preserved.

By the end of the period the size of the war-time operational structure of the defense forces would increase from the present 16,000 personnel to around 25,000 personnel, to which units formed on the basis of Kaitseliit will be added.

Fulfilment of the development plan presumes increasing the share of military spending to two percent of GDP by 2010 and keeping it there after that.

The development plan would be reviewed every four years.

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