In this file photo dated Aug. 29, 2014, NATO naval mine countermeasure vessels berth in Turku, Finland, during the international Northern Coasts 2014 (NOCO14) military exerciseInternationalIndiaAfricaWhile The Global Firepower Index ranks Finland’s military as the 51st-most powerful in the world, it is often viewed as having Western Europe’s strongest artillery, possessing more pieces than France and Germany combined.On Tuesday, April 4, Finland joined NATO, ending decades of non-alignment. With Finland’s accession to the alliance, the bloc’s border has gained nearly 1,300 kilometers of land and water. What does Finland have to offer to its newfound allies? Sputnik explains.
How Strong is Finland’s Military?
Finland is one of the few European countries to have retained a conscription army despite decades of peace following World War II. Each year, Finland drills some 21,000 new conscripts. The term of service ranges from 180 to 362 days. Since 1994, women can also serve, albeit only voluntarily. Following active duty, they become part of its reserve corps of 280,000 soldiers. Of them, some 10,000 are called up each year for refresher courses on a rotational basis. The contract staff consist of 12,000 people, 8,000 of whom are military personnel.In case of need, nearly 900,000 Finns aged between 17 and 60 are available for service in the country of 5.5 million.
The Finnish Army: Introduction to Its Military Arsenal and Capabilities
The Finnish army, which in peacetime consists of eight brigades, has at its disposal 239 main battle tanks, including 100 Leopard 2A6s and 139 Leopard 2A4s, 212 infantry fighting vehicles (110 Soviet-made BMP2MDs and 102 Swedish-made CV9030 FINs), as well as some 1,100 armored personnel carriers, both on wheels and on tracks (including some 400 Soviet-made MT-Ls).The bulk of Finland’s 2A4 tanks were acquired used from Germany between 2002 and 2004; more were purchased in 2009. One hundred 2A6 tanks were acquired used from the Netherlands between 2015 and 2019.
How Big is the Finnish Army?
Finland is sometimes referred to as “Western Europe’s strongest artillery” and has 48 self-propelled 155 mm howitzers and 72 122-mm ones, 740 towed artillery units (including nearly 500 Soviet-made 122 H63s) and more than 1,600 mortars, as well as 27 helicopters (20 of which are NH90s).The Global Firepower Index ranks Finland’s military as the 51st-most powerful in the world. However, the consensus is that its outsize emphasis on artillery (Finland has more pieces than Germany and France combined) potentially allows the small Nordic nation to pack a solid punch.The Finnish Army is also introducing an Israeli-made ELTA counter-battery radar systems in order to locate and track incoming rockets, artillery shells and mortar fire.Finland’s anti-aircraft capabilities number at least 650 missiles, but the Nordic country is in the process of procuring more from Sweden’s Saab Dynamics and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Its key anti-aircraft system is the NATO-compatible Norwegian-US NASAMS 2.As of now, Finland is also eyeing a new high-altitude anti-aircraft system, with Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Systems currently seen as the frontrunners.Regarding UAVs, Finland has an undisclosed number of unarmed Orbiter drones and is in the process of procuring up to 2,000 more, including hundreds of Parrot Anafi drones, similar to those utilized by the US army.Since joining the Ottawa mine ban convention back in 2012, Finland has destroyed more than a million anti-personnel mines, but has since partially replaced that capability with remote-controlled smart mines and area denial systems.MultimediaRussia’s Border With NATO Countries Grows After Finland Joins Alliance4 April, 16:14 GMT
How Strong is Finnish Air Force?
The Finnish Air Force is set up into three air commands, each of them operating a fighter squadron.The Air Force has a fleet of 61 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, which are to be replaced by 64 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II jets. These are seen as the country’s largest modern-era military procurement and are slated for arrival starting from 2026.The main armaments include US-made AIM Sidewinders and AIM-120 AMRAAMs and air-to-air and beyond-visual-range missiles, AGM-154C JSOWs and AGM-158A JASSMs as joint standoff weapons, as well as general-purpose GBU-class bombs like precision guided munition.
How Finland’s NATO Membership Impacts Baltic Security
The Finnish navy is designed exclusively for coastal operations and is trained and armed to protect territorial waters in the Baltic Sea.Finland’s naval forces have eight missile craft (four Hamina class and four Rauma class), four command vessels, five minelayers, 13 minesweepers and three mine countermeasure vessels, in addition to smaller landing craft.Its three new multirole corvettes for surface combat are currently under domestic construction and are expected to enter service by 2029.Since 1998, the Finnish navy also has Coastal Jaegers, or Finnish marines.
Budget and Bases
With an annual military budget of around $6 billion, Finland already spends just over 2% of its GDP on defense, thus meeting NATO’s expenditure target for member states set back in 2014.While largely in favor of NATO membership, both ordinary Finns and political parties are split on permanent allied bases in their country. Smaller temporary deployments, similar to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence deployed in the Baltics, might therefore be a solution.
The Implications of Finland Joining NATO for Russian-Finnish relations
Moscow has repeatedly warned that the expansion of the Western alliance closer to Russia’s borders would make the region neither stable nor secure.Among others, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that Russia would boost its military potential in the western and north-western parts of the country in response to Helsinki joining NATO. The diplomat pledged that Moscow would take additional measures to ensure military security, if other bloc members’ forces or assets were to be deployed in Finland.