Defence Updates- Baltics/ Latvia
In recent years, the Baltic nation of Latvia has gone on a modernization spending spree, putting down cash for new Black Hawk helicopters, self-propelled howitzers, reconnaissance vehicles and anti-tank weapons. But there’s another platform competition on the horizon, with officials in Riga having relaunched a stalled contest for tactical wheeled vehicles.
In 2018, Latvia’s Ministry of Defence awarded to Finland’s Sisu Auto a €181 million (U.S. $197 million) deal for four-wheel drive armored vehicles. But the contract was overturned in early 2019 by a government watchdog after two bidders — AM General from the United States, and South Africa’s Paramount Group — filed complaints over the process. Turkish firm Otokar had also bid on the program at the time.
Janis Garisons, state secretary for the MoD, said, “What we have to do, we will test the vehicles, because we want to ensure we are looking at vehicles fit for our terrain, that can drive into our forests and we are not [getting] stuck on the roads,” said Garisons, who is the No. 2 official at the ministry. “We will look also at the industrial part because we very much interested to have [the] ability to maintain those vehicles.”
The last point is key, as Latvia is concerned about the ability to maintain its new purchases, something the country has struggled with, according to Garisons. “We don’t want to be in that situation anymore.” Thus, the country is also focused on building up its domestic industrial base so that much of the maintenance on its new equipment can be done in-country, in case of conflict.
Regarding research and development, Latvia is working on a joint effort with Estonia to produce unmanned ground vehicles.