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2019.07.22 14:00

Lithuania’s new defence chief on modernisation, independent battalions, conscription and Syria – key takeaways

BNS2019.07.22 14:00

Lithuania's incoming chief of defence, Major General Valdemaras Rupšys, says he will seek to accelerate purchases of new armored vehicles and artillery systems, if the country's increasing defence spending makes this possible.

Rupšys spoke to BNS on his key priorities, including upping the pace of modernisation, conscription, female officers, and discussions on Syria.

Continued modernisation: “I'll say with confidence that I've done everything [so that the] Iron Wolf brigade is in high combat readiness, re-armed and equipped with new equipment and weaponry [...] continuity of the Iron Wolf brigade’s mechanization will remain [...] I want to complete the formation of the Žemaitija” motorized infantry brigade.

New armoured vehicles and procurement programs: “Algirdas and Birutė battalions will be supplied with the [US-made] JLTVs, then with long-range anti-tank systems, and then we will introduce a reconnaissance platform at the brigade level” and will incorporate NASAMS air defence systems “into the military training together with the Iron Wolf brigade.”

Five-year plan: “A high-readiness brigade [...] and two mechanized battalions we are re-arming, which will be interoperable with other NATO units.”

Increasing the pace of modernisation: “Discuss with the MoD, the possibility to change [the existing M113 APC] platform earlier than planned [in 2030]."

Helicopter procurement: “We need multifunctional helicopters for search and rescue [operations] and carrying personnel. In terms of the fire support function, there will be further discussions.”

Key plan: “Battalion-sized units as independent as possible [...] when it comes to independent defence, we have to be very flexible.”

No big dreams: “I don’t dream about [main battle] tanks right now. We don't have such plans,” for tanks nor combat jets.

No increased, or universal conscription: “We now have the optimum number of units [...] About 25 percent of conscripts want to stay after their service. There are clear plans on how many professional troops we have to accept, and we are sticking to this plan. The pace will not be stepped up any further.”

No female conscription: “It's hard to create conditions for a larger number of female conscripts as we need separate premises and hygienic conditions and other things. The young women who come now, they perform their duties just like the young men, doing great, but in some of the units we focus on performing duties that need more of men's physical force.”

Read more: Lithuania's next chief of defence rejects conscription for women

On female soldiers and officers: “I feel utmost respect for those girls who come to the army, and I am grateful for their service. They are very motivated, responsible and can even be an example for men [...] I believe we have gender equality, if we look at possibilities. I feel that a number of women will have the possibility to become colonels over the next five years. We now have women lieutenant colonels and majors who really perform their duties equally with the men and they will become colonels one day."

Discussions ongoing on Syria: “The issue is under discussion and a number of politicians have already talked to me about it. But I wouldn't want to provide any details to the press on what's being discussed."