Advent Calendar #10: Dispersed Operations

The Finnish use of road bases for the air force is well-known, but while the concept sounds simple on paper, there’s quite a few things that need to come together for it to be effective. The eyes of the air traffic controller proper, which can be situated elsewhere, is runway guard (Fi. Ratavalvoja) that ensures that runway is safe and free from obstacles. In peacetime this include checking for wildlife, people, and vehicles that shouldn’t be on an active runway, while in wartime assessing battle damage and repairs is also part of the tasks. Picture source: Ilmavoimat / Anne Torvinen

Advent Calendar #9: Arriving Somewhere

Logistics is never the most sexy of topics, and maritime logistics is no exception. Still, there’s no denying its importance. The Finnish Navy has downsized the number of general cargo vessels with ro-ro capabilities over the past few decades, while at the same time also disbanding a number of island-based garrisons. Still, there’s the occasional need to move more than just backpack-sized equipment, and with the slow change from a largely open-topped fleet of Uisko 200/300/400-series landing crafts to the covered Jurmo- and Jehu-classes for light transport the ability to move e.g. ATVs in the archipelago is diminishing. At the same time, the Pansio-class mineferries which have an important secondary transport role will also start to become more heavily tasked as tenders following their MLU and the upcoming withdrawal of the mineships. Interestingly, Sweden is (again) looking at creating mobile sea-based logistics capabilities, potentially opening up for collaboration on some of the least sexy platforms of either Navy. One can only hope that the budget for the replacement of the Kampela-class vessels, most of which have already been retired, haven’t been eaten up by other projects. Picture source: Merivoimat FB

Advent Calendar #8: Mountain Rangers

While Sweden and Finland largely share the same climate and geography, one distinct feature that Finland largely lacks is the higher alpine zones, including glaciers. In Sweden these can be found in the Scandinavian mountains close to the Norwegian border. While it is possible to traverse most of the Swedish wilderness with “regular” subarctic skills, the Swedish Army does feature a single platoon out of the Army Ranger Battalion (AJB, soon to become K4 Norrland Dragoon Regiment) trained as specialists in mountain warfare. The unique 12. Bergsjägarpluton (12. Mountain Ranger Platoon) spends a lot of their time in some of the most demanding wilderness found in the Nordic countries. Here members of the platoon are seen traversing both peaks of Kebnekaise (Giebmegáisi), the two highest peaks in Sweden. Picture source: Jimmy Croona/Försvarsmakten

Advent Calendar #7: Urban Snipers

A member of a sniper team takes part in the FDF course for fighters in urban terrain at Santahamina, home of the Guard Jaeger Regiment. This is Finland’s premier unit when it comes to military operations in urban terrain, being situated on the island of Santahamina just outside of Helsinki. Among the particularities of the unit is also the Sports School of the FDF, where professional athletes serve their conscript duty (athletes in wintersports do their service in the Kainuu Brigade, but still sort organisationally under the Sports School). As 19 year olds are usually in an important stage of their career, and as being good at sports is no excuse for skipping service in Finland, the Sports School gives the opportunity of service starting in April or October instead of the usual January/July cycle, as well as training throughout their service time. In return, the FDF will use the fact that athletes have a good fitness to train them in different recce roles. Picture source: Guard Jaeger Regiment Twitter

Advent Calendar #6: Independence Day

6 December is Finland’s independence day, so we will head back in the archive. Pictured is a mortar crew of JR 13 at the frontline at Yandeba (also spelled Jandeba), a small tributary to the Svir (Fi. Syväri). JR 13 spent the better part of the Continuation War here on the Olonets Isthmus northeast of Lake Ladoga, along the frontline that roughly followed the river. The regiment was one of two regiments fully made up by Swedish speaking Finns in the Continuation War, the other being JR 61, and was also home to a company of Swedish volunteers following the disbandment of the Svenska Frivilligbataljonen (Swedish Volunteer Battalion) after the fighting at the Hanko peninsula had ended. My grandfather served with the unit’s mortars, both as a forward observer and as part of the mortar crew, for the better part of the Continuation War until he was wounded at the battle of Tali in June 1944. Picture source: SA-kuva

Advent Calendar #5: Local Defence

The largely volunteer-based Local Defence Troops plays an important role in the Finnish total defence system, in providing motivated troops with local knowledge spread throughout the country (with the exception of the Åland Islands). The majority of these are organised in light infantry units, that can perform protection and guard duties, as well as liaisons to other FDF units. In return, they provide an opportunity for reservists without a wartime unit to get back into uniform and into refresher exercises. Here a picture from a local range a few years ago. Picture source: Own picture

Advent Calendar #4: Canine in Hiding

One of the rarer structures found in the FDF, this is the inner frame for a temporary doghouse. The idea is then to wrap it with a tarp, after which it is camouflaged with tree branches or other suitable material in the summer, while in the winter it would be covered with snow. This ensures that the sleeping dog is harder to spot. An entrance is left through digging a hole under one of the lowest branches. Picture source: Kainuun prikaati Twitter

Advent Calendar #3: Subarctic MEDEVAC/CSAR

Few systems have had such a troubled coming of age as the Hkp 14, the Swedish versions of the not-exactly-troublefree NH90. The short straw has been drawn by the Hkp 14E of the 1. Squadron which is operating in the transport role in Northern Sweden, with the unit having suffered from low availability as the maritime-focused Hkp 14F has had priority for spares and personnel. Still, it is a competent platform when it flies, and the CSAR helicopter of choice of the Swedish Armed Forces. And it is always an awesome looking beast (check out WHITEFOX on Instagram if in doubt). Picture source: David Carr/Försvarsmakten

Advent Calendar #2: Tanks in the High North

‘Tank country’ can mean lots of things, and while boreal forests aren’t usually one of them, that doesn’t stop the FDF from using it’s tanks there. A number of the tanks characteristics certainly maintain their use north of the Arctic circle, such as the superior mobility offered by tanks in a region where paved roads are few and far between. The evergreen forest also provide a certain amount of cover from airborne and long-range anti-tank systems. Picture source: Jääkäriprikaati FB

Advent Calendar #1: Marine Recon

For this year I decided to do something different, so here comes Corporal Frisk’s Advent Calendar, where each day up until the 24 December (because that’s how we roll in Finland) you will get a picture or some other media that I feel deserves to be shared. As usual my focus will be on FDF, but don’t be surprised if some other topics suddenly make an appearance.

The marine recon soldiers (Meritiedustelijat) of the Coastal Brigade is one of the less-recognised ‘tough’ conscript units of the FDF. The trade brings all the usual hardship of long-range reconnaissance (heavy packs, small units, long hikes, …) and adds the special flavour that doing it in the Finnish archipelago provides. Here a recce team on exercise dries their clothes after having “accidentally” ended up in the sea during a mission. Having gotten their kit dry, the patrol continued with their original task. Picture source: Merivoimat FB