Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

(Photo: ARTEC)

(Photo: ARTEC)

Lithuania is boosting its military by purchasing 88 “Boxer” infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) from Germany. The purchase comes amid increasing concern about Russian intentions towards Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The Boxer is an eight-wheeled vehicle with a three-man crew that can hold eight infantrymen. The version procured by Lithuania will include Israeli gear, notably the Samson Mk II turret, which has a 30mm autocannon and Spike-LR anti-tank missiles. The Spike-LR is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile that has a range of roughly 2.5 miles, and can defeat most main battle tanks. The Boxers will join about 200 M113 armored personnel carriers currently serving in the Lithuanian Land Forces.

The Boxer is in service with the Dutch and German armies, with the Dutch using it to replace M577 command vehicles and  YPR-765 infantry fighting vehicles in support roles. The  Germans are using the Boxer to replace the M113 and the Fuchs armored car. The two countries have purchased or plan to purchase over 700 Boxers, and the total may well increase.

The purchase of 88 vehicles seems small, but the Lithuanian Land Forces consist of a single full-strength mechanized infantry brigade with a “motorized infantry” brigade currently forming. This force does not have any heavy armor, and is also very short on artillery, featuring a grand total of 54 M101 105mm howitzers and 42 M113 120mm mortar carriers. Lithuania has purchased 21 PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers and a few dozen 120mm mortars that can be carried by infantry. Lithuania has a couple hundred FGM-148 Javelin fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles with a range of just over 1.5 miles, joining older 90mm towed recoilless rifles and Carl Gustav shoulder-fired recoilless rifles.

Despite the modernization program, when facing a formation like the newly-reformed 1st Guards Tank Army, the Lithuanian Land Forces will be facing some very long odds, particularly when they are dependent on a four-plane detachment in Lithuania proper for air cover (the Baltic Air Policing program also has a four-plane detachment in Estonia). The Lithuanian Air Force has one L-39 trainer/light attack plane in service.