Sweden and Finland buy new torpedoes together

Sweden and Finland have announced a joint procurement of torpedoes of the type New Lightweight Torpedo (NLT). This torpedo is produced by Saab Dynamics and is also known by the Swedish name of Torpedsystem 47 or Tp 47.

The hope is that the coordinated purchase will lower the costs of sustaining and further developing the torpedo system. It is also anticipated that this opens other possibilities for cooperation within anti-submarine warfare. …Continue reading

Finland will buy large corvettes

Finnish chief of defense general Jarmo Lindberg to Defense News:

[In] the defense report that was finalized in June last year, the government stated that they are willing to fund strategic procurement programs first to the Navy, where six ships are going away, and they’re going to be replaced by four multipurpose corvettes of about 100 meters. And the anticipated cost of that is €1.2 billion.

As I wrote the other day, ocean capable corvettes are a very interesting class of ships.

Finns like NATO less and Russia more compared to last year

Every year the Finnish Advisory Board of Defence Information conducts a survey of the public opinion on defense related issues. Pauli Järvenpää from ICDS has found a few interesting results:

[M]ore and more Finns seem to believe in common defense through the country’s EU membership. This year, as many as 70 per cent of those polled supported that position. In 2016 this opinion was held by only 62 per cent of the polled. In 2015, just 56 per cent agreed with that claim. In the same vein, defense cooperation with the Nordic countries, Sweden in particular, gets a strong support from the Finns.

Support of NATO membership is way down to 22 percent. Interesting that there is so big difference.

Also noteworthy:

[I]n 2017 Finns hold a more positive opinion of Russia than in previous years. This year, just 37 per cent of the polled considered the Russian influence in world affairs as a negative development, while in the previous year that figure was as high as 50 per cent. Additionally, while in 2016 just 6 per cent of the Finns considered Russia as having a positive influence in the world, in 2017 that figure has climbed to 14 per cent. It is interesting that this change of opinion is happening against the political and military background of Russia continuing to occupy Crimea, to foment aggression in Ukraine, and to meddle in other countries’ national elections.

Historic procurement of Nordic Combat Uniforms reaches prequalification

The Nordic Combat Uniform (NCU) project is moving ahead with an official invitation to possible candidates for prequalification. The goal is that Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden will buy new combat uniforms together, albeit with national variations in colors and camouflage patterns.

By making the procurement together the Nordic countries hope to attract big players that are able to provide higher quality uniforms for less money. The expected value of the contract is between 290 and 425 million euros.

The project is run in a NORDEFCO group that was established in February 2016. Since then the countries have worked out legal and technical details regarding the combat uniform system. There have been some different preferences among the countries with some focusing on Arctic features while others had wishes regarding uses in tropical weather conditions. Overall, though, the countries had very similar requirements to a combat uniform system.

The tender process is officially coordinated by the Norwegian defense. If you are interested in selling a uniform system to the Nordic countries, you can find the procurement documents here.

Finland will buy 64 new fighter jets

Finland’s Ministry of Defense has announced that they expect to buy 64 new fighter jets. That means that the country’s F/A-18 Hornets will be replaced on a one to one basis.

Manager of the acquisition program Lauri Puranen says to yle.fi that since the new jets are not faster than the old ones, and they can’t stay longer in the air, Finland needs the same number of jets to maintain the performance of the air defense. And 64 fighter jets is according to Puranen the minimum number to defend a country of Finland’s size.

Finland expects to make a purchasing decision in 2021, and the new fighters must be in place by 2030 when the current fleet of Hornets are due for retirement. Five aircraft are in the competition:

  • F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
  • F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
  • Eurofighter Typhoon
  • JAS 39 Gripen E
  • Dassault Rafale

As Corporal Frisk points out, Finland has a tradition of buying defense equipment that is just a little behind the cutting edge, aiming for the sweet spot where the R&D work is done and the costs are known but the product is still modern. Finland expects to spend €7-10 billion on the purchase, of which 10-20 percent is dedicated to the weapons’ package.

Finland’s inclination to buy well tested equipment means that the choice of fighter jet is less obvious than in Norway and Denmark where the F-35 seemed the inevitable winner. The Finnish Ministry of Defense has hinted that they expect their new fighter to be able to launch long-range ground attack cruise missiles, and that they are not willing to participate in development work. It may be difficult to get this fully developed for the F-35 before 2030, so that may put other manufacturers at an advantage. (Corporal Frisk’s post is a very good elaboration on this argument.)

The Finnish message that the old fighter jets will be replaced by a similar number of new ones is in contrast to the Danish decision to replace 44 old F-16s with only 27 F-35s. The Danish assumption is that the new planes need less maintenance, so they can deliver more flight hours per year.

Nordic countries agree to exchange radar data for air surveillance

The Nordic countries have agreed to enhance air surveillance through the exchange of radar data between the members of NORDEFCO. The defense ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Nordic Cooperation for Air Surveillance Information Exchange during their meeting in Helsinki yesterday. Several sources report this, but I have found the Norwegian government to have the most informative announcement.

The ambition is to create a better total picture of the airspace over the region. Of course this is only a political agreement that makes the political framework to allow the exchange of data, and it may take a long time before any data is actually exchanged. It is technically difficult to make systems communicate with each other, and sometimes the bureaucracies in the countries move slower than the political ambitions. Nevertheless, the agreement to exchange radar data is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope the technicians can make it work quickly.

Finland is planning mega-exercise in 2020

Finland is planning to hold an Aurora style exercise in 2020 with participation from Sweden, United States and others. Aurora was a Swedish exercise that was held in September and involved 19,000 troops.

Finnish defense minister Jussi Niinisto explained that the exercise will gather conscripts, reservists, and soldiers to practice. “If there’s a crisis, it will be good for us to practice receiving help,” said Niinisto according to Reuters.

The announcement of the exercise comes in the midst of an increased debate in Finland about the country’s relationship with NATO. The planned exercise in receiving foreign forces on Finnish soil shows that Finland sees NATO as an important strategic partner, but for the time being there is not much reason to believe that Finland will become an official member of the alliance.

Is Finland setting the example for military leadership?

Finland is getting positive attention for their approach to military leadership and the remarkable defense preparedness of the Finns.

It seems that Finland is assuming the position as the country everybody is looking to when it comes to modern military leadership methods. Which is a little annoying because it means that we now have to envy not only Finland’s remarkable PISA scores but also their trust in the military and their defense preparedness.

Whilst in Denmark since the Cold War we have more or less abandoned a territorial defense and focused on deployable assets with professional manning, Finland has maintained the ability to defend itself with mandatory male conscription and a large and active military reserve. And the results are stunning when it comes to the people’s interest and trust in the military. Denmark suffers from the paradox that the military is more or less constantly engaged in wars in other parts of the world, but the people is genuinely disinterested and mostly unaware that it is happening. In the current debates about a new political defense agreement in Denmark, it is common to meet the popular argument that the territorial integrity of Denmark is unrelated to military spending because it’s the responsibility of other NATO countries to defend us anyways.

Finland, on the other hand, maintained a national focus with their armed forces all throughout the honeymoon years with Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. I remember not long ago that we used to smile at Finland’s inability to adjust to a future of deployable assets and excused the apparent paranoia of the Finns with a historic inclination to the solitude of neutrality that prevented them from taking full responsibility in the international environment. Now the security climate has changed in the Baltic Region, and instead of laughing at Finland we suddenly find ourselves reading articles about what we can learn from them.

So what is it that we can learn from Finland? Elisabeth Braw has an interesting article in Foreign Affairs about The Finnish Model, and she has a few ideas. For starters, we can learn that if conscription is widespread and of high quality, it will give whole generations a positive attitude towards the military and enhance the willingness to take responsibility for national defense. Instead of being old-fashioned, conscription may in fact be the model of a future where Europe must prepare to handle security without America. There are historical and geographical reasons for Finland to emphasize the territorial defense higher than in for example Denmark, but the numbers cited about the support for the military and the personal sense of duty among Finns are surely impressive.

According to Braw, we can also learn from Finland that evaluation is a powerful tool to develop military leadership if it is done systematically and with care. It really does seem to be a good evaluation system the Finns have set up, but I would have to look closer at it before I can make a final judgement. Given Finland’s academic traditions in the field of organizational learning, I am prepared to believe that they have done a good job.1

Finally, Braw notes that Finland is good at setting the right expectations about the military service. It is a matter of branding and delivering on the promises by neither overselling nor underselling the military, and by having an inspiring program where the skills learned in the military can also be used elsewhere.

Surely aspects of these things can also be found in other countries, but it seems that Finland has excelled in systematizing its conscription and the development of methods to improve military leadership. This is actually really exciting, and although it pains me somewhat to admit it, the Finnish model may be worth studying for those of us who until recently believed that the future was deployable.

  1. I don’t think Braw’s point about military commanders learning to talk to soldiers like normal people instead of shouting is particularly ground-breaking for the other Scandinavian countries. During my study time we had annual Nordic Cadet sports games (NOCA) between the naval academies from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and the Finnish cadets always stood out with a remarkably shouting attitude towards each other. 

Nordic countries enhance cyber collaboration

Nordic countries are enhancing collaboration about cyber defense. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway have agreed to develop capabilities under NORDEFCO. And apparently Finland is taking the lead.

Gerard O’Dwyer writing for Fifth Domain:

Within NORDEFCO, Finland has taken the lead role to develop Computer Emergency Response Team capabilities that have the capacity to better protect Nordic defense IT, core force systems and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.

The deepening of Nordic collaboration is running parallel to increasing defense and hybrid threat cybersecurity investments by governments in all four countries.