VILNIUS, Lithuania, July 22 (UPI) -- Lithuania has begun the first phase of a modernization program for its land forces, which will include replacement of M113 armored personnel carriers.
In the first phase, two mechanized infantry battalions will be outfitted with up-to-date combat vehicles by the year 2020.
The Ministry of National Defense said it issued requests for proposals for the vehicles last week from nine foreign manufactures for a contract to be issued next year.
"The procurement project of infantry fighting vehicles is one of long-term phases of the modernization of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, which will doubtlessly increase Lithuania's capacity to defend and to fulfil NATO commitments," said Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas. "We are turning back to the modernization of the Lithuanian Armed Forces that was terminated needlessly under the former government."
Current M113 armored personnel carriers are adequate for moving personnel around a battlefield but lack fighting capabilities, the ministry said.
"New fighting vehicles that would satisfy national and NATO requirements would make us capable of operating equally with our allies not only from operational but also from technical point of view," Director General for Capability and Armament of the Ministry of National Defense Brig. Gen. Gintautas Zenkevičius said.
Lithuania did not identify the companies that were invited to submit proposals for the new combat vehicles, but the government said the proposals are due in October.