As previously reported Estonia is in the process of selecting a new service rifle. Estonia is moving forward with further testing of rifles submitted by three manufacturers. The contract is reported to be worth €75 million (approx. $86 million) and calls for as many as 20,000 new rifles, chambered in both 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm.
Back in December 2017, we reported that 14 submissions were entered before Estonia’s August 2017 deadline. Of these, the Estonian Centre for Defence Investment reported that 9 had been selected for testing. This included rifles from manufacturers from all over the world, including Česká zbrojovka, Israel Weapon Industries, Lewis Machine & Tool Company, Patriot Ordnance Factory Inc., SIG Sauer, Heckler & Koch, Radius (possibly Radom), and a joint submission from Beretta and Sako.
In January the decision was made to move forward and test guns from SIG, LMT, HK, and POF. POF was reportedly excluded when the shipping of rifles for testing was delayed. Testing of the weapons continues with Major Risto Pärtel, described as the EDF’s chief weapons officer, said that “the goal of the testing was to find out how stable and dependable the weapons are in the hands of various shooters.” The weapons have been tested by the Estonian Defence Force, Police and Border Guards.
A report from Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR), Estonian Public Broadcasting, suggests that rifles from three manufacturers are now being evaluated. These are believed to be Heckler & Koch with the HK416 (complete with the new Gen 3 magazines) and HK417, SIG Sauer with the MCX and SIG716G2 DMR, and Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT) with their MLCPS and CQBMWS.
From the photographs published by ERR, it appears that the Estonian Army is seeking both a standard-issue infantry rifle (in 5.56x45mm) and a designated marksman’s rifle (in 7.62x51mm). Sources suggest that following a report into health concerns over exposure to propellant residue the Estonian defence forces are looking primarily at piston-driven rifles.
Estonian land forces are currently equipped with two rifles. The Galil (used by the 1st Infantry Brigade) and the AK4 (a licensed G3 clone used by the 2nd Infantry Brigade), in 2008 B&T upgraded these rifles but a replacement is expected to be selected this year. ERR report that under the proposed contract approximately 11,000 rifles will be purchased between 2018 and 2021. With the additional option of procuring up to 18,000 by 2024. Regardless of which rifles are adopted, ERR reports that the Estonian military hope to receive the first of the new by the 24th February, Estonian Independence Day, 2019.
Estonian Army Demonstrates Test Rifles, ERR, retrieved 29/03/18 from source
First new automatic firearms to be delivered to Estonia by early 2019, ERR, retrieved 31/03/18 from source