Course correction in the Finnish army: investments in combat readiness and reserves

(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

ANALYSIS:

On 14 August, the Finnish Defence Ministry began implementing the recommendations of the government’s Defence Report which the parliament adopted in June. The report, which was drawn up in cooperation with the Finnish Defence Command, is a strategic planning document covering the next ten years.

Its recommendations include an increase in the wartime strength of the Finnish armed forces, from 230,000 to 280,000 soldiers; the assignment of some conscripts to the rapid manning of units in the event of a crisis or conflict (their service will be extended from 6 to 12 months); and raising the army’s combat readiness level, to which an additional €55 million euros will be allotted annually from 2018.

In addition, as of 2021 expenditure on the purchase of new armament and military equipment will rise by an extra €150 million annually. Finland is planning two major armament programmes in the period from 2019 to 2031; it wants to acquire four multi-role vessels (at an estimated cost of €1.2 billion) and multi-role fighters as successors to the F-18 Hornet (at an estimated cost of €7-10 billion).

Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet

These changes represent a correction to the previous large-scale reforms of the armed forces which were carried out in 2013-14. At that time, the search for budgetary savings led to the cuts to the wartime strength from 350,000 to 230,000 soldiers; to the number of professional and civilian personnel from 15,000 to 12,000; and to the total number of structures in the armed forces from 51 to 32 (by merging units, centralising logistics, and eliminating one level of command, among other measures).

The defence model of non-aligned Finland is based on general conscription and a huge trained reserve. The most important branch  of the armed forces is the army itself, which in peacetime numbers 3500 professional soldiers and around 14,000 conscripts.

After mobilisation, these forces are divided into manoeuvrable troops (35,000), which are the main strike force of the army; regional troops (125,000), that is, territorial defence, tasked with slowing down the enemy; and local forces (5000), which are assigned to defend military sites, critical infrastructure and support to the authorities.

 

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