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Estonian Defence Forces

Since December 2018 the Defence Forces is led by the Commander of the Defence Forces, General Martin Herem.

The Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) is structured according to the principle of a reserve force which means that the main part of the defence forces of the state are units in the reserve. This means that the permanent composition of the defense forces, which is in daily service, prepares reserve units that will be mobilized in a crisis situation.

The wartime composition of the EDF consists of more than 43,000 positions, of which 4,200 are filled by active-duty members of the Defense Forces and the Defense League (Kaitseliit) in permanent readiness and 38,800 are filled by reserve forces and members of the Defense League who have taken on military obligations. To strengthen the operational structure, a supplementary reserve of 4,000 members has been formed.

Additionally, there are around 40,000 reservists in Estonia who have undergone military training but have not been assigned to specific wartime positions for various reasons.

In total, approximately 230,000 individuals with military obligations are registered in the mobilization registry, representing nearly 20% of the Estonian population.

The permanent readiness structure of the Estonian Defence Forces mainly consists of active duty personnel, who are ready to perform their wartime tasks in a few hours and form the basis for the formation of reserve units.

The operational structure of the Estonian Defence Forces mainly consists of reservists, who have completed the compulsory conscription in the past ten years. Necessary information has been made available in advance to the reserve members of the units, which allows them to immediately report to the designated assembly points when called.

The additional reserve consists of reservists, who can be used to strengthen the units of the Estonian Defence Forces, if deemed necessary. Generally, the reservists whose unit has been replaced by new reserve personnel prepared during conscription, are assigned to the additional.

In peacetime the main tasks of EDF are to monitor and maintain control over airspace, to maintain combat readiness, to train conscripts and develop reserve units, to participate in NATO and UN-led international missions and to provide assistance to civilian authorities in case of national emergency.

In crises the main tasks of EDF are to increase readiness levels of units as required, to prepare for transition to wartime structure and to begin partial or total mobilization as ordered, to integrate units from other ministries and to prepare for assistance from and reception of friendly forces.

During crises or wartime, the main tasks of the Estonian Defence Forces are to defend the territorial integrity of the state; to facilitate military debarking procedures – the arrival and deployment of allied forces by land, air or sea; to control ports and maritime communications; to maintain control over national airspace and facilitate the air defence of strategic assets in co-operation with forces from other countries.

The structure of Estonian Defence Forces


Estonian National Defence Policy

Estonia’s defence policy aims to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land area, territorial waters and airspace and its constitutional order. Its main goals remain the development and maintenance of a credible capability to defend the nation’s vital interests and development of the EDF in a way that ensures their interoperability with the armed forces of NATO and EU member states and their capability to participate in the full range of Alliance missions.

Leadership of the national defence

The national defence of Estonia is conducted on the principles of civilian control inherently bound with the democratic organisation of the state. Democratically elected and appointed executive institutions make decisions on the use of the Defence Forces and determine the respective objectives, allocate the necessary resources and monitor the attainment of the objectives.

The implementation of the principles of civilian control is guaranteed by defence-related rights, obligations and responsibilities legislatively laid upon the Parliament, the President of the Republic and the Government of the Republic.

The highest leader of the national defence is the President of the Republic advised in national defence matters by the National Defence Council comprising of the Chairman of the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Commander of Defence (the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces in wartime), the Defence Minister, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chairman of the Parliamentary National Defence Committee.

Executive power in the leadership of the national defence is executed by the Government of the Republic.

The symbolism of the Estonian Defence Forces

In 2018 a comprehensive overview of the symbols of EDF was published to remark the 100th jubilee of Estonian Defence Forces. An electronic version of the book by Reserve Lt Cdr Kalev Konso can be viewed in digital archive DIGAR.

Military Ranks of Estonian Defence Forces

Last updated: 7. February 2024, 09:21

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