Lithuania Plans to Acquire Attack Helicopters as Military Buildup vs Russia Continues
Militarily feeble Lithuania continues to boost the fighting strength of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, and for the first time plans to acquire attack helicopters to attack the Russians in the event of a Russian invasion.
The Lithuanian Armed Forces has no attack helicopters in its inventory but does have six Russian-made Mil Mi-17 transport helicopters operated by the Lithuanian Air Force.
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Lithuanian Vice Minister of National Defense Giedrimas Jeglinskas said his ministry is considering the purchase of new transport helicopters with the aim to completely replace its helicopter fleet after 2020. He also revealed the plan to acquire attack helicopters.
"We need new transport helicopters. It will be a big investment," he said.
"However, I have to admit that we are considering various options, including (the purchase of) not only transport helicopters, but also armed ones."
The ministry also plans to acquire more fighting vehicles for the inadequately equipped Lithuanian Land Forces (LLF), which only has 8,000 active duty personnel. The LLF operates no main battle tanks and its most formidable armored fighting vehicle (AFV) is the Boxer multirole AFV made by a German-Dutch consortium.
By 2021, the LLF will receive an undetermined number of German-made Panzerhaubitze 2000 (PzH 2000) 155 mm self-propelled howitzer, considered one of the best of its type in the world. The army will also receive more Boxer AFVs, many of which will be armed with anti-tank guided missiles. It currently operates 88 Boxers.
More important is the Lithuanian Armed Forces' acquisition of its first surface-to-air missile system, the NASAMS or the Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System. NASAMS is a distributed and networked medium to long range air-defense system. It's the first surface-based application for the U.S.-made AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile).
It will cost Lithuania $106.1 million to acquire NASAMS.
All these expensive hardware acquisitions are being funded by Lithuania's $930 million defense budget, an amount that's 21 percent larger compared to the budget for 2016. This year, Lithuania plans to spend 1.8 percent of its gross domestic product on the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
In 2018, the defense budget will reach 2.07 percent of GDP.