Finland could do more

With the war in Ukraine looking nowhere near resolved and both sides apparently gearing up for the next round of fighting, one thing is clear.

Finland could do more.

This is true for a number of cases, including sanctions on people, goods, and companies, as well as for medical aid through both transporting Ukrainians here for healthcare and supplying equipment to Ukraine, but this blog being this blog, let’s focus on heavy weapons.

There’s a list of caveats long as seven years of famine since much of the details rest on classified information which I don’t have access to – a fact which incidentally is a reason why I am able to write this text – but the idea that Finland can’t supply more equipment is false.

It should be noted that any armed force could always do with more equipment and troops, and it is an almost universal truth that all forces faced with a serious war have experienced shortages in weapons and ammunition – in particular items seeing heavy use such as artillery rounds and expensive items such as guided munitions and advanced systems. Any defence force budget and stocks of equipment and ammunition are the outcome of an analysis leading to what is felt to be an acceptable risk, i.e. at what stage is deterrence and combat capability credible without the defence budget putting undue pressure on the national budget.

This equation is never straightforward, and constantly changes. At the same time, the changes might come faster than it is possible to course correct (i.e. things get worse quicker than industry can supply more stuff or more troops can be trained), meaning that it will require foresight and careful balancing. However, at times it will also require risk-taking, as is evident by the Swedish support to Finland during the Winter War which saw Sweden send significant amounts of their then rather small (and often aged) pool of equipment as well as volunteers, and a large part of their air force to Finland. This was done not because they wouldn’t have been needed at home, but because the risk calculation favoured it:

A Soviet victory would seriously have worsened Sweden’s geopolitical situation.

There probably was at least a small window of time before any of the major powers would attack Sweden.

There were more equipment on order that hopefully would be delivered and pressed into service during that window of time.

…and while international relations realists won’t like this, supporting the democracy against the dictatorship is the morally right thing to do.

While the Winter War-analogies are getting tiring already, I will argue Finland is seeing a very similar situation as Sweden saw then. With one crucial exception, our ground force are in the best shape they’ve been in during peacetime (Lt.Gen. Hulkko said since the end of WWII, but I’d argue that they weren’t better in the 1918 to 1939-period either). That we at this stage wouldn’t be able to spare more than 2,500 old AKM-clones, 60 rounds to each of these, and 1,500 M72A5 LAWs does sound empty and counterproductive from a grand strategy point of view.

Granted, I fully understand that if we ask people within the defence forces they might very well argue that if we aren’t to diminish the combat capability of the FDF there isn’t much to spare, and the argument that countries that doesn’t share a long land border with Russia are better positioned to take those kinds of risks at this stage does hold true. The officers, NCOs, and civilians of the Finnish Defence Forces can be expected to answer honestly when asked regarding what is best for Finland’s military defence, and as the current crisis shows many of the choices made in this regards over the years have been correct.

However, that is not the question in this case.

Rather it is what would be the most beneficial outcome for Finnish national security as a whole, understanding both the added risks involved as well as the importance of Ukrainian successes for Finland as a nation. As such while the question will eventually land on the table of the MoD and the defence forces, the question of whether we can afford to send more aid is first and foremost one for the prime minister’s office and the foreign ministry.

So what are the areas where we could take calculated risks to provide more aid to the Ukrainians?

152 mm 2A36 Giatsint-B (152K89)

Finland has made away with almost all Soviet-calibre systems from the artillery (we will get around to the other exceptions shortly), but one system stands out: the sole heavy guns in the Finnish arsenal that aren’t 155 mm ones, namely the 152 mm 2A36 Giatsint-B. A single battalion of 24 guns is found on strength under the local designation 152K89.

A 152K89 of Kainuu Artillery Regiment during a live-fire exercise late 2019. When firing with a full charge such as here, the gun is capable of flinging out the standard OF-29 HE-FRAG round to over 27 km. Picture courtesy of Marko Leppänen

Finland has been retiring a number of heavy batteries in recent times, mainly older converted 152 mm ones and all 130 mm M-46 (130 K 54), but the Finnish artillery is still very strong by European standards, and having a single battalion operate a unique calibre is an “interesting” choice from a wartime point of view. The guns are most probably excellent for training purposes, but it is still hard to not see them as having a limited value in wartime. In addition, heavy guns is one of the places where Finland has the opportunity to cover any transfers relatively quickly, with there being open options to acquire 38 additional K9 Moukari self-propelled 155 mm guns (options for 10 of the original 48 having already been exercised).

With the 2A36 already being in widespread Ukrainian service, Janes listing 287 in service in 2019-2020 (at least nine having been lost in the war), these could be put into Ukrainian service immediately without additional training required. It also seems possible that the system is in fact a key capability for Ukraine in that it can be used to fire laser-guided shells, and the locally developed Kvitnyk (often transcribed Kvitnik, but Ukroboronprom uses the ‘y’ in their marketing) being a prime suspect behind videos in which Ukrainians reportedly fire artillery that hit single vehicles with high accuracy.

All in all, shipping the last 152 mm guns to Ukraine together with whatever stocks of heavy Soviet-calibre rounds we have left should be a no-brainer. I also believe – though I am not 100% certain – that these are bought directly from the Soviet stocks and are not ex-DDR guns, and as such the export should be politically straightforward (in case anyone is unclear, we do not ask permission from Moscow to send these to Ukraine, in case they want to make a mess, we point to the fact that the war itself is illegal and we have a responsibility to support the defender).

122 mm D-30 (122H63)

The other Soviet-calibre gun in Finnish service is the 122 mm light howitzer which is found both in the shape of both the self-propelled 2S1 Gvozdika as well as the towed D-30. The 2S1 is recently modified to the 112PSH74M-standard and found in somewhat limited numbers, with four battalions – 74 guns in total – being available to provide indirect fire to mobile units. Shipping away any one of these would likely leave some of the key wartime units without organic fire support that is able to keep up with the unit they are supporting, leaving us in a bad spot (note that more or less all of this is speculation, as the wartime OOB and TOE are all classified). However, the towed D-30 is available in significant numbers and generally assumed to be assigned to less-important units. With the risk of getting a lot of angry fan mail from people who will explain that a 122 mm howitzer is not the same as a mortar, some of these are likely local units where indirect fire isn’t a key requirement (instead focus being on rear-guard duties and anti-SOF missions) and you could trade away some weapons for 120 mm or even 81 mm mortars. It obviously will mean a less capable unit, but as discussed above, the geostrategic considerations aren’t guided solely by what makes the FDF as capable as possible.

122PSH74M firing during exercise Pohjoinen 18. Source: Maavoimat FB

How many D-30s and how many rounds for these could be spared is an open question, but as the system is already in Ukrainian use even small batches are useful additions. A number of the guns in service are ex-DDR ones, and as such will need German approval, something which the Estonians already have ensured there is a precedent for.

122 mm RM-70/85 (122RAKH89)

The 122 mm light multiple rocket launch system RM-70/85 is the Finnish light rocket system of choice. The system is easily mistaken for the Soviet Grad-system, and uses the same rockets, but it is in fact of Czechoslovak origin. The Czech republic is reported to already have shipped at least 20 launchers, and with ability to share munitions with the BM-21 Grad these are relatively easy to integrate even if the exact versions differ somewhat. Does Finland have any to spare? These are certainly more difficult to replace than the Giatsint and aren’t available in the numbers of the D-30, but it should be noted that Finland apparently recently has been looking at a possible replacement system.

The delivery time for new launchers is anyone’s guess, but if a swift deal can be made with the Israelis this might be the time to get rid off at least some RM-70s, or if that is deemed impossible then at least ship some rockets – a six-vehicle battery will do away with 240 rockets in a single salvo, so it does seem like a safe bet that Ukraine is interested in getting any 122 mm rockets they can find for their current launchers.


Speaking of quick deals with the Israelis, the current heavy anti-ship missile of the Finnish Navy is the Saab RBS 15 in the somewhat unique Finnish SF-III version (most likely this is a somewhat hotter RBS 15 Mk. II). These are already on their way out with the Gabriel V being inbound as the PTO 2020. Among the systems being replaced are truck-mounted batteries, which would be an excellent complement to the apparently rather low number of Neptune-batteries in Ukrainian service for the sea denial and coastal defence missions.

The PTO 2020 will in the first phase replace the ship-launched systems aboard the Hamina-class FAC as part of their MLU, but in the next phase they will also replace the truck-mounted ones. While not having access to the shore-based systems for a while would be a significant issue for the Navy, this might be another case of us simply having to accept a temporary capability gap in order to ensure Ukraine has the capabilities they need. A caveat here is that if the stories about the UK sending Harpoons is correct, the RBS 15 might not make much of a difference, but as the latest angle seem to be that the UK is sending some other (i.e. lighter and shorter-legged) anti-ship missile, the RBS 15 would certainly be needed alongside the apparently more limited domestic production (yes, I know the UK launchers aren’t ground-based versions, but that has never stopped a desperate country with a dedicated welder in their ranks). While the system would require some training, the fact that Ukraine already successfully operate corresponding domestic systems shows that they have the know-how to integrate and operate the system as well as a cadre of professionals around which to build up more anti-ship units. With Finland also currently enjoying a good reputation in the national security field in Sweden thanks to our more clear NATO-approach, it also seems likely the needed export permissions could be granted more easily than what would have been the case a month ago.

Buk-M1 (ItO 96)

Finland did operate the BUk-M1 system, having acquired it in the mid-90’s. According to most sources the system is now withdrawn for real and it is uncertain if any useable vehicles or missiles remain. One of the really low-hanging fruits of heavy weapons aid is to ship anything that remain in storage – be they spares, tools, or even functioning missiles and vehicles – over to Ukraine quicker than one can say ‘Novator’.

However, as said my understanding is that useful items might be few and far between, which brings us to the next point.

Crotale NG (ItO 90M)

Finland acquired 20 XA-180 equipped with radars, EO-sensors, and eight Crotale-missiles each in the early 90’s. Back in the 2004-2012 timespan these systems were modernised and brought up to what locally is known as the ITO 90M standard. These are still highly competent systems, and their mobile nature and ability to operate quasi-independently (a single vehicle can complete the whole kill chain, but for best effect you obviously want to use them as part of an integrated air defence system) means that they would be of serious value for the Ukrainian forces. The approximately 6,000 meter ceiling and up to 11 km range also means that they would outrange the STARStreak which with the exception of the single ex-Slovak S-300 battery is the heaviest air defence system so far exported to Ukraine during the war, and as such the Crotale would offer a welcome addition in both capability and numbers.

The Crotale NG in Finnish service is a highly compact package that is able to drive around and do all sorts of bad stuff to enemy aircraft and helicopters. Source:

It should be acknowledged that these play a big role in Finnish ground-based air defences, despite their somewhat low numbers and lesser absolute capability compared to the NASAMS II. There are also few if any quick options when it comes to replacing them, and as such sending even a limited number of them to Ukraine need serious evaluation of the impact such a move would have in Finland and Ukraine respectively. But it is an alternative that I do feel ought to be on the table when discussing all options.

Other options

There are indeed other options as well. The Stinger is already in Ukrainian service and even small batches would likely be accepted with open arms. Anti-tank weapons might or might not be available as well. Mortars, both light and heavy, are found in serious numbers in the Finnish inventory, and it is difficult to see that all would be irreplaceable.

For heavier equipment, the Air Force is basically a no-go. There’s little use in sending small numbers of Hornets which would cause a serious dent in Finnish capability but which would be a dead-end for the long-term rejuvenation of the Ukrainian Air Force which really need to go down the F-16 (or possibly the F-15) route. For other aircraft, the Ukrainians are really better off just getting money and permission to go shopping than getting a Pilatus or two.

For the Navy, while sending two-three-four Rauma class FAC overland to Odesa in a covert operation would be an epic story worthy of the best naval small craft traditions of  Finland, in practice cutting the Finnish anti-surface combat capability by 25-50% for a five-ten year period does not seem like a viable option. Better in that case to focus on the truck-based batteries.

Armour is also rather more difficult. The Leopards are too few in number to make a serious contribution for the trouble it would be to integrate them into the Ukrainian force without Finland in essence giving away half the armoured force. For the IFVs, going over to a CV 9030-only fleet would probably be everyone’s dream, but there is no quick way to achieve that, even if one would be prepared to throw significant amounts of money after it (that would also still leave a split IFV-fleet, as any CV 9030 rolling off the production line today would be vastly different compared to the Finnish ones currently in service, but of course they would still be more related than the  current BMP-2 and the CV 9030 are). The BMP-2M/MD that could be transferred would also be significantly different compared to the ones currently in Ukrainian service, though obviously integrating them would be easier than say the Marders they have been trying to buy from Germany. As such, while a transfer of Soviet-designed armoured vehicles aren’t completely out of the question, it must be understood that any such move would leave the Finnish Defence Forces significantly weaker when it comes to the ability to conduct combat operations in general and offensive operations in particular.

As a finishing note, accepting the kind of risk we are talking about here – and at some point we will have to come around to the understanding that we have to accept greater risk-taking in order to further our national interests and national security – would be significantly easier if we were part of an alliance of western democracies that we would have conducted joint operational planning with and on whom we could rely on for support in case of war. Sending away a battalion worth of IFVs doesn’t sting half as much compared to what the situation is right now if one knew that a Swedish armoured brigade with British air support would immediately roll in over the border and take up positions in the defence of Finland until the transferred vehicles have been replaced.

14 thoughts on “Finland could do more

  1. lll

    Not commenting otherwise but more materiel than what you listed has been already sent though, without details given what the second batch included.

  2. I agree with your analysis, although would also like to add the addendum that the very tanks, aircraft and warships that Russia loses (say for example 1000, 200 and 10 of each category respectively) are military items that cannot be used to threaten countries like Estonia, Finland, Norway. Hence sending weapons is a stellar investment in one’s territorial defense.

    If Sweden sends 10,000 anti-tank weapons, destroying (say) 400 Russian armored vehicles, then Sweden can replace those weapons tremendously easily however it’s harder for Russia to replace their lost armored vehicles. Especially so under the sanctions regime. The trade is a no-brainer, really.

    The present opportunity to sink Russian warships, down planes, torch tanks, strike artillery pieces, et c, is one that must not be allowed to slip. Before long, the red army could well totally disintegrate as a fighting force – who would ever have thought back in February that they would have suffered 20,000 KIA in eight weeks? Their 9-year Afghanistan campaign looks like an insignificant skirmish by comparison.

    Ukraine is effectively fighting our war for us, the very least we can do is provide ammunition. Glory to Ukraine

    1. Fábio Leal

      The option to acquire more K9 would get a massive boost in artillery capacities. Suplemented with more Nemo 120 mortar (don’t know what the exact cost would be, but I guess it’s overpriced looking at the export dificulties so far) could set a great short and long range balance.


  3. glen grant

    Thank you for this post. I wanted to write the same but could never with your knowledge or authority.

    I hope someone important reads it.


    Glen Grant Baltic Security Foundation 00371 20226612

    Lecturer Riga Business School (Crisis Management and Strategy)

    Editorial Board [cid:04e1754c-05f4-4ea3-a617-56c88a515867] ________________________________

    1. Fábio Leal

      Might be a win-win situation, sending old soviet stocks from FDF that can be readly used by ucranian armed forces and in the future replaced by NATO standard ones.

  4. Syltty

    Thinking about Ukraine and weapons aid and what can be learned from it.

    Should Finland aquire more different weapons, just to have more aid that can be used instantly?

    For example should Finland buy for example some javelins and milans and Panzerfaust 3:s just to be ready to get tons of aid and have readily trained units for them in a case of war? It would not be very hard to train AT-units to use two different weapons system, as long as their tactical use and cabapilities are roughly the same.

    This goes for any AT or MANPADS systems that are plentiful in western stock.

    With heavier weapons this would be much harder to pull off, but could apply with drones, coastal missiles and other ”not very heavy” systems as well.

    Is it possible to do with air force munitions?

  5. TJAU216

    I don’t necessarily agree with you on giving heavy equipment in meaningful numbers as FDF needs them to do its mission. Our artillery park is already dangerously small, with the current arsenal being less than half of what it was in the 1990s. We have scrapped 400 heavy guns in the last 12 years, and bought only 58 guns to replace them. As the 122mm guns are nearing the end of their useful life, we need hundreds of new guns during this decade. Another 38 K9s would be a good start, but only a drop in the bucket.

    Anti tank mines could be effective for Ukraine, and those are really plentiful in Finnish stocks. Dragunovs and TAK85s could also be shipped off and replaced pretty much instanteously by off the shelf civilian hunting and target rifles. We should still have single digit numbers of t-72s, giving up those would only affect the immersion of FDF propaganda videos. I think all the APILAS stock should be given, and tens of thousands of AKs with millions of rounds of that East German ammo that is not allowed to be shooten during peace time. After all the targets that can be killed by APILAS, but not with a 66KES12 are really rare unless Russia is forced by losses to start to use t-72A and other non ERA equipped tanks.

  6. Shironeko

    A good post. I’ve been thinking along the same lines, and most of the items mentioned were also on my mind. An exception is Crotale (which I would not give up) and ships (too early/would not survive). A few notes:

    – Finnish army had also tracked 152mm artillery, namely 2S5 Giatsint-S (152 TELAK 91). Bought from the Soviet Union and mothballed later due to e.g. difficulty of getting spares. If these still exist, they should be shipped along with 152K89s. Ukraine has/had these too.

    – If the U.S. would be willing to sell second-hand Bradley B2/B3 IFVs, it would enable Finland to ship all BMP-2MDs and also MT-LB/Vs to Ukraine – all of them. Also the BMP-1 based artillery spotting vehicles should be inclued, if this capability could be replaced by Bradleys (B7?). The needed amount of B2s/B3s would be somewhere between 600-800 vehicles. Benefits: Multiplication of firepower, increased protection and a more uniform vehicle park, perhaps enabling savings in training and maintenance. Finnish army already has B2s in the form of M270 MLRS. There would be a slight decrease in mobility (MT-LB/V vs. B2), but this could be addressed in various ways. Possibly the European Peace Facility could finance at least part of the deal.

    – If Bradleys are not availabe in said numbers, perhaps just replacing BMP-2MDs would be enough, i.e. 100-150 vehicles.

    – The amount of RAC 112 APILAS in Finnish service runs in tens of thousands. As this system is at the end of its service life, sending e.g. 10K to Ukraine does not dig Finnish AT capability into a too big hole. The same with M72 LAWs.

    – All SVD Dragunovs should be shipped to Ukraine, as Sako M23 is already on its way. Similarly, if AGS-17 automatic grenade launchers still exist in some dark corner of a storage, they should be shipped to Ukraine. Replacements are readily available, and so is the money needed to buy them.

  7. säkkelton

    Your findings are interesting and very important, thank you!

    Frankly, 24.2.2022 is the date of the beginning of the end for Russia.
    After, Russia will no more be the same. It will take decades to change, even more.
    But for Finland it is instead the end of the beginning. For us, we suddenly (sic) came to an end after 79 years (since in fact Stalingrad). Finland, compared with Ukraine today. was much worse off in the WW2 and the outcome for Finland was, against all odds, a miracle and for Sweden truly unbelievable, as Russia, after all, didn’t become its sovereign neighbor.

    Russia has to loose this war. It is imperative for the Russian nation to change its path.
    Soviet Union was the Third Reich in 1945. The pig spared to get slaughtered, as WC elegantly wanted to put it. It’s just took quite a long time for most of us to see the truth.

    This is also the end of beginning for Russia, to find its own way for Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which DDR never did, but West-Germany and Germany later on made it a love affair.
    Even though, Germans had a somewhat fair fight on the battlefield, excluding Soviets, the national shame has remained for generations. Germans, in a way, took responsibility for the Soviets cannon fodder -principle as an irresponsible neglect for human life.

    So much so, that Germany is in a deep shit because of their pretty one-sided appeasement since Adenauer/Brandt Ostpolitik. What Germany does affects also the whole EU, which without economic ties with Russia is equal with Gold War vol2.

    Now, one could imagine what will it take for Russia to find, once again, a friend in Ukraine. Or anywhere, for that matter. Russia has a long way to go. And Finland has, as you listed, stuff to spare to ease the burden.

  8. Dan

    Finland should be hanging on to their stuff. Just in case Vlad decides Finland would be a real consolation prize.

  9. Bandaidhunter

    Finland don’t need Russias permission to ship material bought from The Soviet Union since sending it to Ukraine is basically just sending it back.

  10. Lasse

    The “Not usable after 10 years of storage” that’s often mentioned with BUK missiles is a bit misleading, IMHO. I believe the correct form is “Usable for 10 years in storage *without maintenance*”.

    They’re solid propellant engines, so they’re probably good for quite a while. I’d be more concerned about the control electronics and that stuff, but that’s what the maintenance is for.

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