VILNIUS (Reuters) – Estonia is set to order a “significant quantity” of so-called loitering munitions, to be delivered in 2024 to increase the distance of its attacks, defence ministry said on Saturday.

The NATO and European Union member said on Feb. 8 it believed Russia still had the strength to exert “credible military pressure” on the Baltic region, where the security risk has risen for the medium and long-term.

The loitering munitions, also called “kamikaze drones”, cruise towards their target before plummeting at velocity and detonating on impact.

The purchase of an unspecified number, set to be one of the largest in Estonia’s history, is expected to be concluded this quarter.

It is being made “in order to significantly increase (Estonian) indirect fire capability as a consequence of Russian aggression”, the defence ministry said.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated on Thursday the United States was ready to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania if required, and will keep its military presence in the region.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; editing by Jason Neely)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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