Estonia, Latvia and Finland to develop land-based drones

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As part of the European Union's Permanent Structure Cooperation framework (PESCO), Estonia, Latvia and Finland are planning to develop land-based drones to be used for planning and reconnaissance. Germany, France and Belgium have also expressed interest in joining the project, which is expected to begin in mid-2019. The system will include a land vehicle, an autonomous control system, cyber defence, and integrated sensors.

Between €30-40 million has been earmarked by the EU for the development, as part of the European Defence Fund, with participating countries also expected to contribute financially. The goal of the project is “to develop a solution for unmanned land systems, which would become the European standard”, according to Kusti Salm, the director of the defense investments at the Estonian Ministry of Defence. Defense News speculated that Estonian arms company Milrem would be involved in the project – Milrem have recently developed the TheMIS unmanned drone.

PESCO was launched in 2017, and aims to help develop European-wide defence industries, and is one strand of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy, which aims to bring closer cooperation between the different militaries of EU countries.

Under PESCO, groups of countries can propose developments to EU together, receiving funding for projects that allow for greater military cooperation between different EU states. A 2017 press release from The Council of the European Union explains “This permanent framework for defence cooperation will allow those member states willing and able to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, or enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.” Other projects planned under PESCO include:

  • a pan-European military training centre,
  • common standards for military radio communication,
  • the creation of a German-led European medical unit and logistics hub,
  • intelligence exchanges on cyber threats,
  • submarine drones.
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