Advent Calendar #23: Blue Territorials

The Finnish Territorial Forces (Fi. Maakuntajoukot) are made up of reservists who volunteer for additional service. The vast majority of these make up the bulk of the Local Defence Forces (Fi. Paikallisjoukot), light infantry for different kinds of security duty in wartime and inter-agency cooperation in peacetime, to the extent that the terms are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably. However, there are some that doesn’t fit the mold, of which Raivaajaosasto Sääksi (Minesweeper detachment Osprey) is the best example.

The unit consists of five small inshore minesweepers of the Kiiski-class, as well as the larger inshore minesweeper Kuha 26 and the small tender L-110. While all vessels are among the older ones in active service in the Finnish Navy, they still provide valuable service thanks to the basic design being sound and the equipment having been upgraded since launch. Making sure that the numerous sea lanes in Finnish waters are free from mines is a crucial mission for the Navy as the country’s supply lines rely on it, and it is a mission where the number of available hulls is important. As such, the use of motivated reservists being able to leverage their training is a win-win situation for the Navy, which always struggle with finding the right balance between the number of vessels and manpower requirements. Picture source: Rannikkolaivasto Twitter

Advent Calendar #22: Road Bases

One of the things that has been discussed numerous times during HX is the use of road bases by the Finnish Air Force. While no doubt being an interesting concept, in fact the road bases aren’t causing too much of an issue on their own. Rather, it is the general doctrine that the Finnish Air Force will disperse in wartime that leads to additional requirements when it comes to the fighter fleet. This includes the ability to operate with limited and easily transportable ground equipment, the possibility to do maintenance in austere conditions, and so forth. Then whether the asphalt belongs to your local airport or a widened piece of road isn’t of that big an importance from a systems point of view (though the pilot will have to aim better). Picture source: J. Häggblom

Advent Calendar #21: It Came from Beneath the Sea

You’d be excused for thinking the picture shows a soldier, but it is in fact an erikoisrajajääkäri, a member of the elite Finnish Border Guard unit that ranks among the top when it comes to the most demanding roles a Finnish conscript can train as. And as we noted a few days ago, the FBG sort under the Ministry of the Interior and not the MoD (though as we also noted, in wartime the FBG would be integrated into the FDF wartime chain of command, so the line regarding the conscripts is somewhat blurry). The erikoisrajajääkärit (special border rangers) are trained at the FBG Academy in Immola, and all conscripts reach at least NCO ranks, with approximately a quarter doing the SOF reserve officer course together with the paras in Utti. Picture source: Raja- ja merivartiokoulu Twitter

Advent Calendar #20: Tracked Mobility

Training troops that are supposed to be able to operate in a region where a meter (or more!) of snow isn’t unusual means that the Kainuu Brigade is one of the most prolific users of tracked all-terrain vehicles in the FDF. While the Swedish Bv 206 is well-known internationally, the unit also uses locally designed and built Sisu NA-series vehicles. However, both models are starting to be rather long in tooth, and while a small number of Bv308 have been acquired the requirement to replace the large number of Bv206 and NA vehicles remain to be solved in the upcoming years. As such Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, the UK, Norway and Sweden are working on a joint project for a replacement vehicle, but in the meantime the old vehicles are carrying on as they’ve done for the last few decades. Edit: Seems Finland (and Norway) has dropped out of the project since last year. Thanks to @nHenrikJ for pointing this out! Picture source: KAIPR Twitter

Advent Calendar #19: A Tank (or not)

You sometimes encounter defence acquisitions that make you shake your head in disbelief. However, most nations does not in fact acquire their systems through random acts of management, meaning that there’s usually a not insignificant amount of reasoning behind even the stranger ones – even if they might require a bit of explaining before one understands them.

This was most certainly the case with the Latvian decision to acquire the FV107 Scimitar (of the CVR(T)-family). While I have nothing in general against acquiring armoured fighting vehicles from the surplus market, the old British reconnaissance vehicle seemed an unlikely choice as the sole tracked AFV for a force undergoing modernisation and mechanisation. However, as usual there is method to the madness, and I was in luck to some time ago get to talk to a person who had insight into how the procurement decision was made. Thinking outside of the box is the key phrase.

When starting to plan the mechanisation of the force, it was clear that the Latvian Army wouldn’t have the funds to start fielding tanks of such an age and on such as scale that they could compete with the Russian units. But infantry likes to have direct fire support, so something was needed. This could be handled e.g. by infantry fighting vehicles such as the CV9035 bought by Estonia, or by arming wheeled APCs such as Lithuania had done with their Boxers. However, Latvia chose another path. The CVR(T) was available on the cheap, which was a key factor. Tracked AFVs are useful in other situations as well, as simply the sight and sound of tracks can have a psychological effect on your enemies. It’s not a tank, but on the positive side it is light and small enough to be carried around by normal trucks as opposed to requiring heavy loaders, meaning the logistics train required to give the vehicle operational and strategic mobility is also rather cheap. And did I mention, the CVR(T) is cheap?

The bottomline is that for a country with a limited budget – stopping tanks means infantry weapons and anti-tank missiles. Buying the dirt-cheap CVR(T) meant that there were more money left for Spike-missiles and enhancing the mobility of the infantry in the mechanised brigade, while still enabling the force to get a fire support vehicle. And while the CVR(T) isn’t much of tank, it actually isn’t much worse than the CV9035 or Boxer when it comes to providing fire support. Granted it has a 30 mm RARDEN which isn’t up to pair with the Orbital ATK Mk 44 of the Lithuanian vehicles, but the profile is quite a bit lower than the Boxer or the CV9035.

Unconventional thinking lead the Latvians to a 70’s designed light reconnaissance vehicle which became their heaviest land system. And with more than one analyst having called for different countries to think outside of the box to ensure that their force structures aren’t simply chosen based on old concepts, I have to say I respect the Latvians for actually doing so. Picture source: Latvian Armed Forces Flickr / vrsž. Gatis Indrevics and srž. Ēriks Kukutis

Advent Calendar #17: Abatis

Finnish officer cadets learn how to create a giant abatis as part of their countermobility course. The trees are felled at a 45° angle over the road from alternating sides which makes the interlock. In a country covered by forests many secondary roads are suitable for abatises, and while it is far from unbreachable, properly done it can cause significant delays for an advancing enemy. The fact that no additional building material is needed also means that it is one of few means an infantry unit can employ to quickly create a serious obstacle without the need for heavy machinery. Picture source: KAIPR FB

Advent Calendar #16: Hawk turns 40

Finland, the first export customer of the Hawk, got it’s first jet 40 years ago today. The aircraft beat Dassault-Breguet Alpha Jet, Saab 105, Aermachi MB.339 and Aero L-39 Albatros to become the new advanced trainer back in the late 1970’s, with first delivery 16 December 1980. The Finnish Air Force now decided to celebrate this event with a striking anniversary scheme, and as such, today’s picture will be of this jet, HW-340. The aircraft is one of the original Finnish Mk.51 Hawks, and is no stranger to a touch of blue and white as it has been one of the aircrafts of the Midnight Hawks display team that received large Finnish flags a few years ago. In the current scheme, the first Finnish jet with an official ‘whole-body’ special scheme, HW-340 will make appearances on the display circuit next year. The Hawk-fleet is made up of a mix of Mk.51 and slightly differing Mk.51A, as well as ex-Swiss Mk.66. All have now been upgraded to a newer standard with glass cockpits to better serve the modern training environment, and the fleet will continue to serve well into the HX-era. Picture source: Ilmavoimat Twitter

Advent Calendar #15: Brownout

An NH90 from the Finnish Army landing at UPM Kaukas paper mill, demonstrating that brownout isn’t only a problem during international deployments. All FDF rotary aviation is operated by the Army aviation which is part of the Utti Jaeger Regiment, the home of Army paras and contracted SOF. The main workhorse is the NH90 TTH, which following delays and teething troubles have become reliable workhorses for all three services as well as for providing support to civilian agencies according to need. In addition, a small force of MD500 are used for a number of mission ranging from training to reconnaissance and working as sniper platforms. Source: Utin Jääkärirykmentti Twitter

Advent Calendar #14: Walking on Sunshine

In Finland the Border Guards occupy an interesting place in the total defence concept. In peacetime, the FBG reports to the Interior Ministry, as does the Police. However, come a crisis, and the FBG would mobilise into wartime units which differ from the peacetime organisation and transfer over to the FDF. As such, it is possible to do your conscript service in the FBG, though seeing the conscripts one would be forgiven for not realising they belong to a civilian agency.

The ‘basic’ Rajajääkäri, border jaeger or border ranger, are trained at two companies, one in Lappland in Ivalo and one in Northern Karelia in Onttola. It is conscripts from the latter that in the picture above are seen marching through the wilderness of Koli. The rajajääkärit are trained as light infantry with reconnaissance as their main mission, and as such a premium is placed on the ability to operate in small units over long distances with everything one needs carried on one’s back. Picture source: Pojhois-Karjalan Rajavartiosto’s Twitter