At a meeting with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Finland on Tuesday, Lithuania’s Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis informed him about the decision taken by the ministry’s Defense Resource Council to turn to the US government for a possibility to buy armored vehicles manufactured by US company Oshkosh Defence, reads the press release.
With approval from the US government, Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicles (L-ATV ) would be manufactured together with vehicles intended for armies of the United States and other countries.
In a comment to BNS, Karoblis refused to specify the sum projected for the vehicles. He said the US-made equipment was chosen by the ratio of price and quality.
“In terms of time and importance, it is a strategic purchase after the Boxer (armored vehicles), howitzers and medium-range air defense systems. Therefore, we’re aiming at a relevant price,” the minister told BNS in a telephone interview from Helsinki.
In his words, the negotiations with the manufacturer should be completed in 2018 or early 2019, while the first vehicles should arrive in Lithuania in 2021.
The armored vehicles and will be distributed among various military units, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said in a press release. According to the communique, the shortage is the result of normal wear-and-tear of the present ATV fleet and also of the increased demand because of the armed forces enlargement.
Currently the Lithuanian Armed Forces use HMMWV and Toyota Land Cruiser 200 armored all-terrain vehicles.
Special Operators Against Jihadists
The Lithuanian defense minister and the US secretary of defense also discussed Lithuania’s intentions of sending Special Operations Forces to Syria and Iraq where the US-led international coalition are fighting the Islamic state group.
In October, the Lithuanian parliament sanctioned dispatching of up to 30 troops to the territory of the operation, and their presence will not be limited to presence in training bases, unlike the Lithuanian army instructors who are currently training local forces in Iraq.
Karoblis emphasized that a decision on sending the special operators was yet to be made, as support and security matters still needed to be finalized with the American side.
“Technical discussions with the US side are in progress. (…) The instructors leaving the base means we have to have armored equipment, which we expect the US side to provide,” said the minister.
The United States this year ceased rotating permanent land forces in Lithuania, and the troops will only come to Lithuania for military training. The Lithuanian defense minister said he wanted bigger US presence in Lithuania but emphasized that the US was active in other fields.
“US presence on the basis of companies was important but let’s not forget the circumstances the company was sent here. This was the initial reaction to the developments in Ukraine (…) and they came here to the Baltic states, as nobody else could,” said Karoblis.
International NATO battalions were stationed in the Baltic states and Poland at the beginning of this year. A brigade of US troops was deployed in Poland, as well.
Lithuania expects the United States to contribute to development of regional air defense, continue investments in regional military infrastructure and participate in the planning of regional defense.