The Estonian Navy has come to a preliminary agreement to purchase three used minehunters from the Royal Navy, to replace its antiquated fleet of minesweepers. These ships should be in place by 2010. They will cost 800 million Kroons or 51.3 million Euros or $62.5 million US.
"The government has approved a preliminary agreement between Estonia and Great Britain under which three Sandown class minehunters will be bought," an Estonian government official said in a statement on April 6, 2006.
These Sandown Class minehunters are of a fleet of 11, the first built in 1988 and the last in 2001. They have been active in the Gulf War looking for individual mines and escorting fleets.
These are basically ocean-going vessels, double the size of those of the Royal Swedish Navy's (RSwN) largest minehunters. It should be noted, however, that the RSwN also has corvettes, high speed patrol craft and aircraft while the three Sandown Class ships will make up a most of Estonia's entire fleet.
The main task of the Estonian Navy is mine countermeasures. During WW I and WW II 80,000 sea mines were laid and even now during peacetime the Baltic Sea is littered with orphan mines. The important function, therefore, is to keep sea channels free for shipping. Estonia does that either by itself or with the help of other Baltic navies.
It is likely that Estonia will be asked to send one of its new (used) Sandown minehunters to the North Sea to be involved in NATO exercises or even manoeuvres further afield. To do this effectively Estonia's equipment needs to be up to date and powerful.
The Sandown Class minehunters are 52 m long, with a displacement of 600 tons loaded. They have 2 1,500 hp diesel engines, going at a speed of up to 13 knots with a range of 2,500 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots. The crew complement is 34 plus 5 officers. There is a full range of radars and sensors for any task.
I expect Estonia will have better luck with its naval purchases than Canada had with its submarines, since the minehunters have been operational all this time and not in dock (as the submarines Canada bought from England were).
Estonian Navy to buy 3 used British minehunters (2)