New 7.62mm and 5.56mm Rifles Sought by Estonian Center of Defense in $75 Million Contract

Original caption: "Adazi Training Area, LATVIA – An Estonian Soldier lays down suppressive fire with his teammate during a movement to contact situational training exercise lane here, June 13, 2014." Image source: commons.wikimedia.org, US Army photo

NATO member and ally the Republic of Estonia has released a tender with up to €75 million (roughly $86 million USD) for nearly 20,000 new rifles in both the 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibers, according to reports from IHS Janes’ and other outlets. The new contract is intended to supply both brigades of the Estonian Land Forces with new weapons, replacing their aging Ak4 (license-built Swedish G3s) and Galil rifles.

The rifle tender is scheduled to be filled between 2018 and 2021, with additional orders extending out until 2024. According to the Estonian Public Broadcasting website, the tender is one of the largest Estonian military contracts of the past decade, along with an order for advanced Korean K9 Thunder autoloading self propelled howitzers, and another for general ammunition supply.

Estonia is a Baltic nation with population density and land area roughly equivalent to the US state of West Virginia, making it one of the smallest NATO member states. Still, the country’s armed forces number some 6,400 active duty military personnel, as well as an additional 15,800 Defence League personnel, roughly equivalent to the National Guard in the US. Like many small nations, the Estonian government also maintains a sizeable reserve force drawn from the general population, numbering above 270,000 persons.

Any companies interested in bidding on the contract have until August 8th to submit their bids.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Anonymoose

    SCAR and Galil Ace seem like good bets, once again.

    • Jason Culligan

      The SCAR seems to be a dead horse these days. My money is on the HK 416/417 and the Galil Ace being the main competitors. The Galil would be familiar to Estonian soldiers making the transition easier while the HK is gaining significant traction here in Europe.

      • JSmath

        Also a pretty good opportunity for the HK433 to wet its feet.

        I could see the ACE making itself an appearance as well.

        • moonstar

          HK433???
          No way!
          First, it must prove itself in the field; in real conditions.

        • Jason Culligan

          IWI would be mad not to put the Galil ACE forward. Given the fact that the Galil is the current service weapon and it’s well liked I’d be surprised if they lost it.

          I doubt that the HK433 will be involved. It’s still a prototype aimed at the German Army and as far as we know has no 7.62 variant. If HK do enter it’ll be with the HK416 and 417 combo.

          • snmp

            Galil ACE was build by Indumil (Industria Militar Colombiana) and sold by IWI. In plus, Galil ACE was in service In Colombia & Vietnam

          • Sermon 7.62

            HK should be too expensive for them.

          • Jason Culligan

            Who says it has to be? A budget of €75 million for 20,000 rifles means they’re willing to spend €3,750 per rifle.

            The French paid €168 million for 107,000 HK416F’s which puts the unit cost at €1,570 per rifle.

          • Sermon 7.62

            It’s 29,000 rifles.

          • Jason Culligan

            “The Center for Defence Investment will buy some 11,000 new firearms between 2018 and 2021. The conditions of the tender also call for an option to buy up to 18,000 firearms until the year 2024” – ERR News

            So it’s up to €75 million for 11,000 rifles and the option price for a further 18,000. That results in a price of up to €2,586 per rifle. The French paid €1,570 per rifle for theirs while the Norwegians bought theirs for closer to €2,000 per rifle. The higher end civilian prices here are roughly €2,800 to give some context.

            The Galil ACE is identical in price here in Europe for civilians and given the hardware and build materials I’d be surprised if the military price is much different to the HK416.

          • Sermon 7.62

            Is it far from Tallin?

          • Stan Darsh

            Heckler & Koch announced there will be a big brother to the HK433 chambered in .308 that will be designated HK231. Although, all models are still very much in prototype phase and are not expected to enter service until 2020 at the earliest.

    • Vitor Roma

      Why is nobody talking about the Bren 2? It’s a great gun that already correct the initial quirks.

      • Sermon 7.62

        Because transition to HK or FN or CZ rifles can take a decade for Estonians.
        So, it should be Galillo. It’s familiar to them.
        It’s still AK, after all, albeit mutilated.

        • Jason Culligan

          I’d say it’s more to do with the fact that the Bren doesn’t come in 7.62 NATO and CZ doesn’t have a semi-automatic offering for military users in that calibre.

        • snmp

          HK (HK416 & HK417), FNH (SCAR H & L), Berretta-Sako (ARX160/200), CZ, Steyr, Hanael, SAN (with SIG SAUER) ….

          • Sermon 7.62

            Is it far from Tallin?

    • HK SUK

      HK433?

      Can’t wait for another classic HK melting gun

    • hikerguy

      Agreed. The Estonions are already familiar with the AK style guns and both share some parts. Like the Indian Army it would be a win-win situation for them.

      • ShootCommEverywhere

        I don’t know if anything about India’s current service rifle situation could be called a win-anything.

        • hikerguy

          Yes…..Even with assistance from IMI themselves I could see them still managing to screw things up terribly. I see your point.

    • User1978

      Galil Ace can`t participate in this procurement because according to rules of this procuremnt the offered firearm must be in use at least in 1 army or law enforcement agency within EU or NATO. As far as I know noone in EU or NATO is using Galil Ace.

  • RazorHawk

    Why replace the old guns? They still work fine. If they do replace them, they should sell the old guns to the civilian market as mil surp.

    • Jason Culligan

      I would have thought at first that it had something to do with modularity but the Estonian Galils are packing railed handguards and uppers.

      Perhaps there were complaints about the weight (as the original Galil is comparatively heavy) or the weapons in stock have been worn out in combat?

      • Sermon 7.62

        In combat?

        • some other joe

          Coalition/NATO partner in Afghanistan.

        • Jason Culligan

          Estonian forces have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan alongside US and British forces. They also saw peacekeeping deployments to Bosnia and Kosovo. For such a small country they’ve seen a good bit of action.

          • Sermon 7.62

            Yes, must have seen a lot of action. Estonians are tough.

            Estonian Afghanistan Contingent
            Size: 150

            Estonian Iraqi Contingent
            Size: 50

            Estonian Kosovo Contingent
            Size: 50

          • Jason Culligan

            150 soldiers across 17 deployments which results in a total of 2,550 troops deployed over the lifetime of their involvement. Considering the fact that the Estonian Defence Forces only have a permanent force of 6,400 troops that’s a serious amount of troops deployed at any one time for them.

            Between wear from their combat deployments, wear from general use and the fact that they’re already 25 years old it’s no surprise that the Estonians need a replacement.

          • ewqjvjpk

            Considering that there is only one professional/deployable battalion, the ratio could be considered even higher. Half of those 6400 are conscripts, who serve 8 to 11 months and can’t be deployed. The casualties have also been relatively high for such a small country, especially on the wounded side. A few have also killed themselves after service. It has been a tough contribution any way you look at it. Helmand was no holiday.
            Galils were the primary weapon there. I’ve seen some guys tape up the gas tube and dust cover to keep the gun clean from afghan moondust. There were no significant problems with the guns though. There were also special forces, who used (funnily enough) G36s. Haven’t heard any complaints from that side either.

    • Gun Fu Guru

      Sell them where? They would have to be de-milled. Where’s the fun in that?

    • ewqjvjpk

      The first Galils were received from Israel in 1994 and have been in service ever since, that is nearly a quarter century. According to an EDF armorer, keeping the remaining guns operational would require parts replacement equal to about 70-80% of the cost of a new gun (we’re not talking about simple pins and springs anymore). The weapons have been beat to hell and require replacement one way or another and the original manufacturer doesn’t make them anymore. Soldiers like the Galil a lot, but stuff doesn’t last forever.
      The current RFT is spread over multiple years so as to replace the guns gradually and not have a big impact on other necessary procurements. Eventually, all automatic rifles in the EDF will be the same type. The Police and Border Guard Board will also receive a handful of rifles through this procurement (some suggest about a thousand). In addition to this procurement, new machine guns and marksman rifles will be bought as well. The new long-term defence plan reaffirms previous development intentions and suggests consolidation of current capabilities, which essentially means that one of the primary goals will be to sustain and/or renew current materiel. That includes weapons, ammo, communications equipment etc.

      • Renato H M de Oliveira

        Sound, rational and cost-effective.
        Envy truly is a capital sin.

    • Alvar

      The Ak4’s couldn’t even be used outside of Estonia because of the agreement with the Swedish government which donated the rifles. My guess is they would be returned to Sweden in case they don’t need them any more.

    • jono102

      You want to replace your service rifles when the still work, be they old. If they are already crapping out with regular occurrence you have left it to late and compromising the operational capability of the military and safety of its members.
      It also means if serviceable they could be sold or written off as aid to another country if your constitution/laws allow.
      They may also be fine when compared to other rifles of their period but when you compare them with contemporary rifles they start to come up short especially when you start to talk modularity and degree of adjustment and fit it can provide a soldier. Things like the variety of optics and accessories you want to fit to the rifle and where especially when looking at different optic options.

  • gunsandrockets

    K9 SPG? That is some serious artillery.

    • joe tusgadaro

      The neighbour to the East have been recently demonstrating in Ukraine why arty is still valuable..

  • Brett baker

    Colt 7.62/5.56?

  • john huscio

    Sig 516 would be a good choice.

    • James Kachman

      What makes you say that? The piston has fallen out of favour in SOCOM, they’re heavier, generally more expensive, and add excess wear to the AR system.

      • john huscio

        Most countries/agencies going to AR platforms these days are going with piston systems…..France, NZ, various police agencies in europe, various agencies in the US, Hong kong police, ect. Not seeing DI systems getting those contracts.

        • James Kachman

          >France
          Granted

          >NZ
          The CQB16/MARS-L is a DI Gun.

          >various police agencies in europe
          Odd, the Finnish Police in another article posted today used DI guns.. the Germans may have an obsession with sticking pistons where they don’t belong, doesn’t mean everyone else does.

          >various agencies in the US
          Even more of whom use high-end DI guns such as DD, BCM, LWRC or LMT.

          >Hong Kong Police
          Who use M4s, M16s, and whose Special Duties Unit uses the SR-16, a DI gun?

          • Stan Darsh

            As someone who has been to Germany and seen their adult entertainment, I can assure you the Germans DO have an obsession with sticking pistons where they don’t belong.

          • john huscio

            Hong kong special duties unit and CTRU use the sig 516 as well.

          • jono102

            Those smaller buys don’t really reflect much be they DI or Piston. Even the companies them selves know that minor military and LE buys don’t keep them in the black, its service wide adoption for a military that reflect’s their success.

    • Sermon 7.62

      HK is not AR. It’s HK.

      • Jason Culligan

        HK is an AR. It’s an AR18 operating system mated to an AR15 upper and lower. You can’t get more Stoner than that.

        • Sermon 7.62

          Yes, of course.
          And AK was designed by Hugo Schmeisser.
          I know.

          • Jason Culligan

            If you don’t want to admit that you’re wrong then that’s your prerogative but there’s no need to be obtuse about it.

            The HK416 is an AR15 variant.

          • Sermon 7.62

            HK is a crossbreed.

          • Rocky Mountain 9

            I seem to recall another comment thread where you were unnecessarily difficult about a tenuous argument point. Is this a pattern?

          • Sermon 7.62

            HK is a crossbreed.

          • jono102

            By the same measure the RPK16 is the cross breed of an AK74 and Brownells parts catalog.

  • James Kachman

    I’d be interested to see Diemaco/Colt Canada put forward a 14.5 or 16″ carbine with a free-float IUR, like the Netherlands has. Plus, I’d wager they have experience in adapting the AR to colder climates.

    • jono102

      Colt Canada have both 5.56 and 7.62 options in their AR platforms and a proven service history and reputation. A common platform type would make things a lot simpler for training etc.

  • James Young

    $75 million for rifles? Those are rookie numbers. The US is going to spend $500 million on pistols alone.

    • Renato H M de Oliveira

      Estonia is about the size and population of Virginia (as per the article).
      A much lower military budget is expected.

      • James Young

        I know, I’m not trying to make a point, just a trolly comment

        • Renato H M de Oliveira

          My bad.
          In any case, Estonia is very careful with its defense. A role model to be followed.

  • feetpiece _

    Hopefully FN cuts them a deal on a boatload of SCAR-H’s.

    • Jason Culligan

      That’s less than half of the contract and, honestly, even if it is added to the competition in the L and H variety I doubt they’ll win. It’s by it’s own admission a gun designed primarily for special forces and it has a price tag to match.

      HK has an advantage in that they’ve been making a large number of HK416’s for Norway, France and the US. They can offer a somewhat competitive price for a ‘premium’ service rifle.

      • jono102

        If they went with H&K they would then be competing or fitting in around French production programs which could be a reasonable delay

  • jono102

    A few things drop out of it for Estonia. They are after both 7.62 and 5.56 platforms and they are a small military and NATO members.
    Already it would be leading them down a road maximizing on commonality in platforms and with NATO. Being a small buy it would also mean they would want to go with proven off the shelf systems already in service else where not risking it with anything new out of development or with limited service i.e. ARX or CZ.
    Commonality with the previous platform isn’t as bigger consideration as capability when all things are considered and it can sometimes be better to start with a clean slate and not have a mix of legacy equipment/drills and new ones especially for a smaller military.