Combat vehicles blessed with sisters

Oliver Kund
, reporter
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Photo: Eesti Kaitsevägi

Updating its military equipment, Norway is selling Estonia 37 used hulls of armoured vehicles, each for the price of a small car. The exceptionally favourable deal is to bolster the Eastern border of NATO and fill a hole in Estonia's armoured maneuverability. 

As, a year ago, defence minister Sven Mikser signed the purchase contract for 44 combat vehicles CV90 in Holland, this was but a part of a plan. The €113m buy will indeed be shaped into main force for Scoutsbattalion in near future, while a host of other machines are needed as a complement: mortars, command posts, transporters – all also armoured.

«After we bought the main machines, the  CV90, we begun to look around where similar vehicles were available,» said defence ministry vice chancellor Ingvar Pärnamäe.

Multiple times below market price

While Sweden is currently using ready-made support vehicles partly befitting Estonia, Norway’s offer stood out. True, the technology needs vital and costly modification.

Namely, the hulls currently stored at a hangar in Norway belong to some 15 years old CV9030 type machines from which the Norwegians have removed the costliest part – the turrets with the guns. All in all, Norway is disarming 70 such hulls.

«These have been taken to the garage straight from the troops who drove them just half a year ago,» said Lieutenant Colonel Kalle Teras of Defence Forces headquarters responsible for defence planning.

A few months ago, defence ministry and Defence Forces experts were in Norway to pick out the ones which fit Estonia. The ones thus far chosen have been used at exercises, while the 70 definitely include such as have been to missions in Afghanistan.

«The hulls are in Norway, parked tightly against each other, in the right temperature and humidity. All are in good working order, we have checked every one,» said Mr Pärnamäe.

Pursuant to the contract to be entered in Norway on Friday, Estonia is buying the 35 hulls and two teaching machines for the training of future drivers. The hulls should arrive during this year and the next. Estonia pays for the transportation.

Unlike the Dutch deal, Norway performs no preliminary repairs on the vehicles – they will be bought in current technical condition and from where they stand. During the two upcoming years, Norway includes spare parts within the purchasing price but the amount is yet to be agreed.

For Estonia, the deal will cost €635,000. Thus, for each hull Norway asks an average of €18,000. A glance at market prices shows a Scania V8 engine to be more expensive.

«This is a very political transaction in the sense that €635,000 is actually nonexistent as price for such things. We have acquired excellent equipment from a friendly nation thanks to Norwegian taxpayers,» said Mr Pärnamäe.

The costly modifications

Once the hulls arrive, the costs go up significantly. Of these, a total of ten types of support vehicles will need to be combined such as command post carriers, 120 mm mortar carriers, transporters and evacuation machines. The work will have to be completed by 2019.

The international procurement for modifications will be proclaimed this summer. The ministry hopes that at least partly the works might take place in Estonia.

«We have also told potential enterprises that they need to have a potential partner from Estonia – a local enterprise able to carry out certain work,» said Mr Pärnamäe.

The vice chancellor was unable to predict the price of modifications but it will probably be tens of times dearer than the hulls. For the creation of armoured manoeuvrability within a couple of years, the state has allotted a total of €180m. After the Dutch and Norwegian deals, €66m will remain for use.

Lieut. Col. Teras says modification of the hulls isn’t complicated. Same level technology is only to be added to mortar and command vehicles.

«With mortar, the ambition is for it to be semiautomatic,» said Lieut. Col. Teras. In other words, the 122 millimetre mine will be lowered into the barrel my machine not man.