Austria plans to introduce long-range air defense missiles to its armed forces starting in 2027, following the country’s recent accession to the German-led European Sky Shield Initiative.
The defense ministry aims to have a procurement contract concluded by the end of 2026, with a draft law being presented to parliament to prevent the final decision from falling to the next government.
Two weapon systems are under consideration: the American-made Patriot system and the American-Israeli Arrow 3. Deliberations on the procurement will take place in the coming days, weeks, or even years.
Discussions are already being held with European partners, with discussions primarily happening with Germany. In September, Austria announced its intention to purchase the German-made Iris-T air defense system for the short-range segment of the Sky Shield scheme. Berlin signed a €4 billion ($4.4 billion) deal to buy Arrow 3 that same month.
Critics argue that joining ESSI would undercut Austria’s commitment to neutrality, but Chancellor Karl Nehammer retorted that the final decision on whether to engage an object in Austria’s airspace would remain in Vienna.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has spurred a new wave of funding and procurement for the Austrian armed forces, with the government intending to almost double its annual defense spending by 2027. Austria proclaimed its intent to join the European Sky Shield Initiative in July and has recently announced the purchase of new helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and transport aircraft.
Austria, under its 1955 state treaty with the Allied powers, was prohibited from possessing weapons with a range greater than 30 kilometers until 1990. According to the armed forces website, currently Austria’s ground-based air defenses consist of MISTRAL missiles and 35mm anti-aircraft cannons.