Reach out and touch someone – at 40 km

While the Finnish Navy is undergoing a visible transformation with the acquisition of the Pohjanmaa-class corvettes and the Hamina-class MLU, away from the headlines an era is about to end. The Finnish Defence Forces had the luck of inheriting the unfinished but still impressive Peter the Great’s Naval Fortress when the country became independent in 1917, making it a major player in fixed coastal artillery. But now the end is approaching for the 130 TK, the last fixed guns of the country.

The glorious life of a gun crew on the 130 TK. Source: Merivoimat FB

The 130 TK is the mid-sized coastal defence system in Finnish service, wedged between the MTO 85M (RBS 15, to be replaced by PTO 2020) and the RO 2006 (Spike ER). Being the sole artillery system, it has a few unique features compared to the missiles.

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Artillery observers directing fire from the 130 TK during exercise Silja earlier this year. Source: Merivoimat FB

The most important difference is cost of the rounds. Modern artillery rounds aren’t necessarily cheap, but they’re certainly cheaper than missiles. They also provide the ability to target vessels where a PTO 2020 might be overkill (such as minehunters, landing craft, and small auxiliaries), and to maintain suppressive fire over prolonged time (both against vessels and against units that have come ashore). A key feature is also the ability to fire a warning shot, something that might come in handy in a ‘hybrid’ scenario where you don’t necessarily want to put a missile in a suspicious vessel. However, the Navy has let go off their towed systems, meaning that replacing the 130 TK with mobile artillery would require reintroducing the artillery branch in the Navy (or asking really nicely if the Army would have a few wartime batteries to spare). The Navy’s standing comment is that they are still looking at all alternatives, including both missiles and artillery.

But where better to ask about what those alternatives can be than at AMBLE Baltic?

The new Nammo 155 mm extended range family. Already in Finnish service, might it be the kind of versatile low-cost solution that the FDF loves? Picture courtesy of Nammo (all rights reserved/media license)

First stop is Nammo’s booth. The Norwegian/Finnish company is a well known supplier of artillery to Finnish heavy guns, and the company representative is happy to discuss the potential of using 155 mm rounds for coastal defence. While the mission isn’t part of the current mission set, “there’s lots of possibilities”. This includes not only extended range HE-rounds which push 40 km with base bleed from a L/52 gun, but also rocket-assisted projectiles with 70+ km range from L/52 guns as well as different kinds of precision guidance kits. Against a target such as a vessel 7 kg of explosives from a RAP round might well be plenty enough to achieve at least a mission kill. Fire direction against a moving target will present some challenges, but Nammo is certainly interested in having a go at it. Or as the company representative sum it up:

It’s worth having a look at.

But if Nammo isn’t in the coastal artillery game at the moment, two tables away is someone who is. Eurospike GmbH supply the Finnish Navy with the Spike ER (RO 2006) for the coastal defence role, as well as the Finnish Army with the Spike MR and LR for the anti-tank role (as the PSTOHJ 2000 and 2000M respectively). The oldest batches of the RO 2006 are approaching the end of their shelf-life, which brings a further twist to the 130 TK replacement. The RO 2006 has a range of 8 km, and the logical follow-up is currently in qualification.

RO 2006 being fired during exercise Silja. Source: Merivoimat FB

Spike ER2 adds another two kilometers of range and non-line of sight ability compared to the current ER. The seeker head is also able to use both the IR and the daylight mode simultaneously, making it harder to spoof the tracking. The anti-tank warhead is also promising 30% higher penetration, something that is largely of academic interest for the anti-ship role. While not directly discussing the coastal defence role, the company representative confirm that they are in discussions with the Finnish Defence Forces regarding new anti-tank concepts for all ranges. The Spike does have a trump card, as it makes it “possible to have everything in one family”. A dual-Spike solution for the Navy could potentially be in the cards, with the Spike NLOS allowing for 30 km range currently, and “more in a few years”. There’s also “solutions for even higher ranges”, but the company won’t go into further details as to what those are. Eurospike also notes that the coastal defence role might require a lighter solution than the current vehicle-mounted NLOS platforms, and suggests that UGVs with NLOS might be a suitable concept.

The size difference between the Spike ER2 (left) and the LR2 (right). Source: Own picture

Could Eurospike score a missile grand slam with more and newer anti-tank missiles to the Army and a dual-buy of ER2 and NLOS to the short- and medium-range coastal defence needs of the Navy? Possibly, but the introduction of NLOS would require quite a bit of new infrastructure in the form of suitable transport vessels to get the missiles moving in the archipelago, somewhat leveling the playing field compared to the investment an artillery-based solution would require. Perhaps adding a few batteries to the buy of whatever replaces the outgoing east-built guns will still turn out as the prefered solution?

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Outstanding Ships of the Finnish Navy

FNS Uusimaa (05). Source: Puolustusvoimat.

As the Russian News Agency ITAR-TASS recently published a picture gallery of 13 “Outstanding ships of the Russian Navy”, a  twitter discussion took place about if the Finnish Navy could be presented in the same way. While waiting for the official feature, here comes a little pick focusing on classes instead of individual ships.

Hämeenmaa-class

FNS Hämeenmaa (02). Source: Puolustusvoimat

The Hämenmaa-class consists of two vessel, which at a displacement of 1 300 t currently holds the distinction of being the largest ships in the navy. Both have been extensively upgraded roughly a decade ago, and features modern facilities, meaning they are as adapt at hunting pirates in the Indian Ocean as they are laying mines in the Gulf of Finland. Katanpää-class

FNS Katanpää (40). Source: Wikimedia Commons/MKFI.

The newest major ship class of the navy is in fact so new it is expected to reach operational readiness only next year. These multipurpose mine countermeasure vessels are equipped with modern equipment to be able to safely hunt down mines, or search the seabed for wrecks and similar. They are also the first Finnish naval vessels equipped with Voith Schneider propellers.

Pansio-class

FNS Pyhäranta (875). Source: Wikimedia Commons/MKFI

The Pansio-class mine ferries may look ungainly with their big boxy hulls, but in reality they fulfill an important role in the navy, being able to handle not only large quantities of mines, but also of transporting general cargo in a roll-on/roll-off configuration.

Hamina-class

FNS Hanko (82). Source Wikimedia Commons/MKFI.

The Hamina-class fast attack crafts are for the navy what the F-18 Hornets are for the air force: they are fast, sleek, deadly… and expensive. The class represents the cutting edge of modern light surface combatants, equipped with some of the best sensors and armaments available.

U700-class

The U700 prototype. Source: Marine Alutech Oy Ab.

So new it is still waiting for its “proper” name, The U700-class, named “Jehu”, is the future workhorse for the Finnish marines, and a major boost compared to the current Jurmo-class. The new boats offer a higher top speed, ballistic protection, NBC-protection, and a remote weapon station. The marines will now be riding into battle in an APC, instead of in a truck like they used to.

G-boat

G-boat (G-102). Source: Puolustusvoimat.

While the U700 may be the one with all the bells and whistles, few boats in the navy can match the thrill of the light G-boat speeding over the waves. The boat is used to transport small teams of soldiers to shore, with speed and maneuverability as its only defence. Thankfully, it has a lot of both, due to its single water jet and 170 kW/ (230 hp) engine.

Isku

FNS Isku (826). Source: Penalandia.net/Pentti Heikkilä

The research and test vessel Isku is one of the less well-known vessels of the fleet. Operated by the Naval Research Institute, it is usually far from the headlines, but right at the forefront of current research.

Kampela 3

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Kampela 3 (877). Source: Wikimedia Commons/MKFI

With all the grace of a car ferry, the Kampela is the logistics officer’s best friend, at least when an exercise requires large cargo to be shipped to one of the old island forts in the Gulf of Finland. The large deck can also be adapted with equipment to either lay or hunt for mines.

Louhi

FNS Louhi (999). Source: Wikimedia Commons/Tupsumato.

The multipurpose vessel Louhi is unique in that it is owned by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), but manned and operated by the navy. The main purpose of the vessel is to function as a response vessel in the case of oil spill accidents and other environmental disasters, but the daily trade of the vessel is centered around the laying of sea cables, functioning as a dive support ship, and performing underwater maintenance.