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Estonia prepares reservist to use modern weapons against Russia.

For the first time, Estonian reservists have improved their skills with the newly acquired PIORUN short-range air defense system. These MANPADS, manufactured in Poland, can reach targets up to 6 km away, day or night.
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Estonian Armed Forces reservists training with PIORUN MANPADS  (Picture source: X/ MoD Estonia )

The Piorun missile is a MANPADS-type portable surface-to-air missile. Weighing about 16.5 kg with the launcher and measuring 1.6 m in length, it can achieve a maximum range of 6 km and an engagement altitude of 4 km. Propelled at a speed of approximately 600 m/s, the Piorun is equipped with an infrared seeker head that tracks the target's thermal signature, and it uses a fragmentation warhead to destroy aerial targets. Its design allows for high mobility, being easily transportable and usable by a single soldier.

The Piorun portable anti-aircraft missile system is produced by the company Mesko and was created following the modernization of the GROM system carried out between 2010 and 2015. The modernization significantly improved the seeker head's effectiveness by increasing detection sensitivity, which extended the range at which the missile can target and hit the target. Increased resistance to interference was achieved, a proximity fuze was used, an access authorization system was implemented, and the firing set was adapted for nighttime use.

In 2016, the Ministry of National Defense signed a contract to purchase 420 launchers (launch mechanisms) and 1,300 rockets for the Polish Armed Forces, with deliveries scheduled between 2017 and 2020. Due to delays caused by technical problems related to the propulsion system, delivery of the rockets and launch devices began in 2019 after successful tests. In 2020, Piorun missiles were fired from the Poprad self-propelled anti-aircraft missile systems. The missiles are used not only by Poprad but also by the PSR-A Pilica anti-aircraft missile and artillery system. Since 2022, Poland has been supplying Piorun systems to Ukraine.

It is interesting to see the difference in use and training among various military reserves in Europe. The Estonian reserve is seen as a truly deployable action force, meaning this force is equipped and meets the country's military standards. Often, these young recruits are reservists in transition; having joined paramilitary training groups sometimes called Cossacks in their youth, they serve in the reserve while studying and then sign a commitment. This is why the reserves are at a level similar to active forces, especially since the Estonian army is small due to a low population density.

In France, for example, the military reserve does not have this image; it is not intended to be deployed alongside active troops but rather to handle so-called second-tier missions, relieving military units. As a result, there are fewer opportunities, less equipment, and especially less combat readiness in Western European military reserves.

Estonia feels directly threatened by the Russian presence, like the Baltic countries. Russia has strategic installations nearby, such as Baltic ports and the city of Saint Petersburg. Russia feels particularly threatened, especially since previously neutral states have recently joined the North Atlantic Alliance, exacerbating existing tensions.

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