The state needs warships, helicopters and coastal radar network

Oliver Kund
:

Estonia lacks an exhaustive image of what is happening in its territorial waters. Maritime defence is fragmented between three institutions, which can perform only a small amount of approximately fifty tasks, Estonia’s first detailed maritime security report reveals.

This is the conclusion reached by analysts of the International Centre of Defence Studies and the Estonian National Defence College centre of applied studies after two years of work. They believe that the situation can be changed if Estonia’s maritime defence be restructured and newly equipped during the next 15 years.

First about the current situation. A country with extensive stretches of coastal sea like Estonia has to perform a number of tasks to ensure the security of its territorial waters, from weather prediction to highly sophisticated challenges like underwater counterintelligence.

The report determined that Estonia’s present maritime defence could work in peacetime, but would cease to operate at a higher level of crisis.

It all begins from insufficient capability to compose the information most necessary for a maritime nation – an identified maritime situation picture. The latter consists of a processed body of information depicting surface, underwater, amphibious and air activities combined with geographic and environmental data.

Our situation is the best regarding the gathering of geographical and environmental information and securing safe maritime traffic, which are the tasks of the Maritime Board.  No capability gaps were discovered in their operation.

No distribution of maritime surveillance tasks

Further on, flaws became apparent. No institution in Estonia has been clearly tasked with maritime surveillance. It is true that the Police and Border Guard Board does it for maritime rescue and border guard purposes, but the maritime situation image it produces does not meet the military requirements.

“We are not capable of producing a situation image of such precision, which would able the use of force”, the report project manager Jaan Murumets explained.

Plainly speaking, this means that if a dangerous vessel should be sighted in Estonia’s territorial waters, we would lack the ability to identify it or to determine its precise location. And that poses a problem, since maritime surveillance is a capability, which, unlike firepower, cannot be provided by allies, but must be developed by every maritime country. What is worse – we also lack the capability to open fie at the enemy.

Why? The reasons are historical and have been caused by limited investments. The analysts determined that the state has listed tasks, but has failed to specify, which institution should perform them.

For example, it has not been determined, who should provide the state with sufficient early warning against a maritime military threat. Or which institution demonstrates the state’s sovereignty in out territorial waters or protects critical infrastructure located there, e.g. communication channels or cables.

The current capability of the Navy meets the requirements only in a very limited spectrum, primarily in the sphere of mines countermeasures. The Navy’s ability to discover, localise and identify surface and underwater targets is inadequate. The same goes for the ability to protect itself against attackers.

The situation of the Police and Border Guard is slightly better as it basically meets its maritime tasks. However, the volume is insufficient, since the service would face trouble in the very first stage of escalation of a crisis, for example in an armed conflict or a major pollution incident.

The drawbacks primarily concern equipment. For instance, the Police and Border Guard Board has, instead of five multipurpose vessels of the same type, four ships of totally different characteristics, one of them rather small. Only two vessels have pollution control capability, but the localisation and removal capabilities are nonexistent. The area of Estonia’s territorial waters would require six helicopters, but there are only three.

The authors of the report add that in case of war the Police and Border Guard Board would face a strange situation. Since maritime surveillance in wartime is a military function, the persons carrying it out should be considered combatants and their vessels warships.

In Estonia, however, police officers or non-combatants are tasked with surveillance. In wartime they would become legitimate targets, but they lack the training for resisting and the rights of combatants do not extent to them.

The system must be reorganised

According to the study project manager Jaan Murumets, this all led to a conclusion that the current allocation of maritime defence tasks should be reorganised. The experts developed three alternatives for politicians to choose or combine while making their first decisions in the coming years.

Plainly speaking, to cover the capability gaps Estonia’s maritime defence needs an operating combination of ships, coastal base, command and control centre, training centre, surveillance network, coast-based missile batteries and an air component.

How many key components must be procured and where, depends on how to merge the institutions. The study showed that the costliest option would be to carry on with the separate Navy, Police and Border Guard Board and maritime Board. It would be optimum to concentrate the maritime defence tasks in two organisations: one capable of projecting force (e.g. the Navy) and another without the capability (e.g. the possible Transport Board).

After the structure has been reorganised, it would have to be equipped. First of all the state should build a coastal surveillance network of approximately 20 static costal radar and observation posts and at least three mobile radar and observation stations.

In case of most alternatives the state would also need for performing the tasks at least three 75-100-metre warships, which would be able to identify targets and fire at them. Further there should be up to ten smaller, 50-75-metre craft, which could in the long run replace the present minehunters, but carry a wider selection of weapon systems.

The Air Force should also receive, in order to perform all the maritime missions, at least three aircraft and up to nine helicopters for transport, identification and combating underwater targets.

The study did not concentrate on the cost of reorganisation of Estonia’s maritime defence. According to Murumets, the purpose of the study ordered by the Government Office and the Navy was to provide alternative solutions to the politicians, which they could aim at in the following ten-year development plans or state budget strategies.

Some of the provided alternatives are certainly within Estonia’s capabilities during the next 15 years. “This does not mean that next state budget strategy should write a check with seven zeros on it. These investments would have to be made anyway, since all equipment becomes outdated sooner or later,” Murumets said.

Four options of Estonia’s maritime defence

Option 0

No decision is made, the current situation continues

Changes: None

Strengths: None

Weaknesses:

All capability gaps continue

Maritime defence remains fragmented

No central coordination

No military maritime defence

Legal vacuum for the Police and Border Guard Board maritime units in case of military crisis

Option 1

Existing organisations – the Navy, the Police and Border Guard Board, the Maritime Board – will remain separate, but the former two will be provided with extra resources to overcome capability gaps (the Swedish model)

Changes:

Requires a minimum of 14 ships (3 large, 6-10 smaller for the Navy and 5 multipurpose vessels for the Police and Border Guard Board).

Requires a total of 5 aircraft and 12 helicopters

Requires at least three missile batteries.

The Navy will have a coastal surveillance network of at least 20 stationary radar/observation posts and three mobile radar/observation posts. The maritime Board may need another surveillance network.

Strengths: Elimination of capability gaps.

Weaknesses:

Fragmented development continues.

No central coordination; three separate control centres.

Capabilities partly overlap.

Operational costs are higher than in case of alternatives.

Legal vacuum for the Police and Border Guard Board maritime units in case of military crisis

Option 2

A) Maritime defence tasks to be concentrated in two organisations: one with the capability of projecting power (Navy) and without (possible Transport Board). The task of the former is presence at sea; that of the other, response to incidents.  The existing maritime component of the Police and Border Guard Board will be integrated into the Navy (partial Danish model).

Changes:

Requires a minimum of 13 ships (3 large, 6-10 smaller ships and 4 multipurpose civil service vessels).

Requires a total of 3 aircraft and 9 helicopters for the Air Force

Requires at least three missile batteries.

The Navy will have a coastal surveillance network of at least 20 stationary radar/observation posts and three mobile radar/observation posts, which will cover the possible Transport Board requirements.

Strengths:

Elimination of capability gaps.

Military and non-military tasks are separate

Combatants and non-combatants are clearly identified

Weaknesses:

Operating expenses as high as in case of Option 3

B) As Option A. but based on the Police and Border Guard Board a Coast Guard will be formed within the Navy (the Norwegian model).

Changes:

Requires a minimum of 13 ships (3 large, 6-10 smaller ships and 4 multipurpose civil service vessels).

Requires a total of 3 aircraft and 9 helicopters for the Air Force

Requires at least three missile batteries.

The Navy will have a coastal surveillance network of at least 20 stationary radar/observation posts and three mobile radar/observation posts, which will cover the possible Transport Board requirements.

Strengths:

Elimination of capability gaps.

Military and non-military tasks are separate

Combatants and non-combatants are clearly identified

Integration of the Police and Border Guard Board maritime component with the Navy involves less risk

Weaknesses:

Operating expenses as high as in case of Option 3

Option 3

Performing all maritime tasks would be combined into one hypothetical organisation, e.g. the Navy (the complete Danish model).

Changes:

Requires a minimum of 13 ships (3 large, 6-10 smaller ships and 4 multipurpose civil service vessels).

Requires a total of 3 aircraft and 9 helicopters for the Air Force

Requires at least three missile batteries.

The Navy will have a coastal surveillance network of at least 20 stationary radar/observation posts and three mobile radar/observation posts

A single command/control centre remains

Strengths:

Elimination of capability gaps.

All tasks performed within a single chain of command

Weaknesses:

Operating expenses as high as in case of Option 2

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Keywordsair forceborder guarddefencedevelopmentinvestmentsjaan murumetsmilitarypolicepolice and border guard boardrescuestate budgetstrategy
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