Estonia will become the second country after New Zealand to use automatic weapons produced by the American company Lewis as the primary firearm of its armed forces. The first batch will cost €22 million, but the contract also envisages further purchases, the news outlet Err.ee reports.
Although until now, the Estonian Defense Forces and Estonian Defense League (Kaitseliit in Estonian) have primarily used Israeli Galil automatic rifles and Swedish AK-4s, in the coming years they will switch to weapons produced by the US-based Lewis Machine & Tool Company.
“In the international tender announced by Estonia, Lewis passed thirteen other firearm manufacturing companies,” the Estonian TV channel ETV+ reported. “These machine guns stand out for their ease of use and long lifespan. And, another argument, which was paid attention to, was the number of shots which can be fired without having to repair the weapon. In this case, it is 30,000 shots,” explained Priit Soosaar, head of the Procurement Department at the Estonian Center for Defense Investment.
The first batch of 16,000 units will be shipped to Estonia between 2019 and 2021. “But the contract being prepared will let us buy up to €75 million worth of weaponry by 2026. As part of this program, we will replace all of the weapons in the 1st and 2nd infantry brigades, of course, in the Kaitseliit, and in other divisions if needed,” Soosaar explained.
Some of the new weapons will be given to police and other law enforcement authorities. “While Estonia may have demonstrated a certain amount of originality in the choice of arms supplier, the calibers of the machine guns will be the standards for NATO forces – 5.56 and 7.62 mm. If we had adopted some extremely specific weapon with a special caliber into our armament, it could have created problems in a crisis, when our allies would be unable to help us with the necessary ammunition,” Soosaar noted.