The Estonian Defence Ministry and LMT Defense have signed the contract to provide Estonia’s Defence Forces with an initial procurement of 16,000 rifles. We’ve reported on LMT’s success in the Estonian rifle trials previously, reporting their selection back in December 2018 and LMT’s confirmation earlier this year.
LMT fought off competition from a number of rival companies including giants SIG Sauer and Heckler & Koch. The contract is for both the 5.56x45mm MARS-L assault rifles and 7.62x51mm MARS-H DMR rifles, with deliveries of these new rifles set to being in at the start of 2020.
In May LMT opened their brand new factory in Eldridge, Iowa. The new state of the art facility is nearly 3 times larger than their previous plant in Milan, IL., and will play a massive role in fulfilling the new Estonian contracts. The contracts were signed in Iowa by representatives of the Estonian government including Priit Soosaar, head of the procurement at the Centre for Defence Investments, who signed the contract, and Estonian ambassador to the US Jonatan Vseviov. From LMT, the company’s CEO, Karl Lewis, signed the contract.
According to Estonia’s EER, there was some delay to the award of the contract following LMT’s selection when SIG Sauer lodged an official appeal against their selection. Following a second appeal, the award to LMT was upheld and the contract was finally confirmed in May 2019.
Kusti Salm, the departmental director at the Estonian Ministry of Defence, said in an official press release:
For our regular troops, as well as for our reservists, the rifle is the most crucial weapon, and with the contract signed today the defense forces will be getting new generation rifles which are accurate, ergonomic, reliable and modern.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also attended the ceremony and noted that “Estonia is one of our most reliable allies in international operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. We are greatly honored that Estonia will start using weapons manufactured in the U.S.”