Article 3 of the Washington Treaty commits NATO Allies to strengthen their own national defense and ability to resist armed attack. In line with these commitments, Baltic States are acquiring capabilities that, individually and together, harden their national defenses and enhance their ability to tap Alliance capabilities should the need arise. U.S. Exercise Saber Strike offers Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian forces the ability to practice deploying new capabilities: Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) from unmanned aerial vehicles and tracking information from new air defense radar systems identifies targets so Baltic soldiers can take aim with new anti-tank Javelin missiles and specially-trained Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) can call in precision airstrikes and help build proficiency in using anti-aircraft missile capabilities.
“Deterrence begins at home and that’s the resilience of national responsibility among the 28.”
— Ambassador Douglas Lute, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO
Air Defense Radars
On June 17, the U.S. transferred to Latvian control the Sentinel Air Defense Radars. This sophisticated radar system can detect, track, identify, classify and report airborne threats. The $33 million ground-based air defense capability was funded with U.S. European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) funds.
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
Baltic Allies have invested in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to improve intel and early warning, including unmanned tactical aerial vehicles and unmanned aerial systems such as ground control units.
The Javelin missile can defeat any tank in the world and is the standard system used by the U.S. Army.
Estonia took the national decision to acquire this key military capability to enhance its own national defense. In keeping with the self-help and mutual aid objective of Article 3, the U.S. provided $33 million ERI assistance funds to increase the number of anti-tank missiles Estonia procured. Similarly, Lithuania also operates Javelin anti-tank systems and recently signed an agreement with the U.S. to purchase additional Javelin systems.
Joint Terminal Attack Controllers
Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) is capable of calling in precision NATO airstrikes, including directing the actions of an A-10 combat aircraft engaged in close air support.
The Estonian JTACs were trained at the Joint Air-Ground Operations Center in Germany and the JTAC training center in Latvia, which also provides instructors to the Air-Ground Operations Center in Poland. This is a perfect example of the Article 3 goal of working separately and jointly to maintain and develop individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.
In March, the U.S. delivered a $33 million capabilities package to the Lithuanian military that included specialized radio equipment to secure ground-to-air transmissions and improve force communications in the field.