Estonia’s Blue Spear AShM System Achieves IOC
Estonian authorities have officially confirmed that the Blue Spear anti-ship missile system has reached initial operational capability.
The original contract was signed in 2021 following a government decision on funding the program the year before. With the Estonian Navy not having surface combat vessels, the missile batteries will be land-based. Reportedly the systems will be truck-transported with the launchers themselves in 20-foot containers. Together with modern mines acquired earlier, these will form the key weapon systems of the small Estonian Navy for the foreseeable future.
The Blue Spear is described as a fifth-generation missile that forms part of the Gabriel-family of missiles. The Gabriel is originally developed and produced by the Israel Aerospace Industries, IAI, while the Blue Spear comes from a joint venture named Proteus Advanced Systems formed together with Singaporean defence powerhouse ST Engineering. Besides Estonia, it will also arm the Republic of Singapore Nayv’s Formidable-class of frigates where it replaces the US-made Harpoon. For Estonia, Estonian company Pro Lift OÜ has been carrying out modification work for the trucks used for launchers.
The missile is reportedly very close to the baseline IAI Gabriel V, which is operated by the Finnish Navy, meaning the two NATO allies on both sides of the Gulf of Finland both operate versions of the latest generation of the Gabriel. Another related version was the Sea Serpent which was on offer by IAI and Thales for the UK Interim Surface-to-Surface Guided Weapon (I-SSGW) programme until the programme first was cancelled and then saw the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile was acquired as a stop-gap measure.
Blue Spear allows the Estonian Navy to target Russian surface vessels at significant ranges in the Baltic Sea in case of war. It is important to recognise that missiles are only one part of a significant increase in capability as the Estonians also have invested in surveillance and targeting capabilities, as well as the aforementioned mines. Combined, these give the ability to control nearby sea lanes in times of war together with other allies in the region, a strategic necessity for Estonia for which the supply lines over the Baltic Sea play a crucial role.
The Blue Spear is a relatively heavy weapon, sporting a 150 kg class warhead and active radar seeker. Notable is the stated high ability to distinguish between different targets, including both countermeasures as well as collateral shipping in the target area. The latter is of particular importance for countries operating close to significant merchant routes, such as in the Baltic Sea (or the Singapore Strait). A maximum range of 290 km is also quoted.
In addition, the weapon sports a secondary land-attack capability. While the cruise missile is likely somewhat limited in its capability against hardened targets due to the warhead being optimised for the anti-ship mission, this does mark the first long-range precision fire capability for the Estonian Defence Forces. The service still awaits the deliveries of a number of HIMARS launchers on order, which are slated to arrive later this year.
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