HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland joined NATO on Tuesday, bringing the Western defence alliance significant military capabilities developed over the years.
Finland is one of few European countries to have retained a conscription army through decades of peace, wary of its eastern neighbour Russia after the former Soviet Union tried to invade Finland during World War Two.
Finland’s ground, naval and air forces are all trained and equipped with one primary aim – to repel any Russian invasion.
Finland trains some 21,000 new conscripts every year, who then become part of its war-time reserve of 280,000 soldiers of whom some 10,000 a year are called up rotationally to refresher courses.
Some 870,000 Finns aged between 17 and 60 are liable for service in case of need. The contract staff consist of 12,000 people, 8,000 of them military personnel.
The Ground Force is equipped with some 650 tanks, around 200 of them being German-made Leopards types 2A6 and 2A4.
Finland has what it calls “Western Europe’s strongest artillery” that includes some 1,500 weapons: about 700 howitzers and cannon, 700 mortars and about 100 heavy and light rocket launchers.
It is also introducing an Israeli-made ELTA counter-battery radar system which provides it with the ability to locate and track incoming rockets, artillery shells and mortar fire.
Finland’s anti-aircraft equipment consists of at least 650 missiles but it is in the process of buying more from Swedish Saab Dynamics and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
Its most important anti-aircraft system is the NATO-compatible Norwegian-American NASAMS 2. It has also anti-aircraft cannon and tanks designed for the same purpose.
It is in the final stages of a tendering process for a new high-altitude anti-aircraft system which it will buy either from Israel Aerospace Industries or Rafael Advanced Systems.
Finland has an undisclosed number of unarmed Orbiter drones and is in the process of purchasing 1,000-2,000 more, including hundreds of Parrot Anafi USA drones, similar to those used by the U.S. army.
The infantry holds enough firearms – assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons – for the entire reserve, but also all necessary gear for fighting in harsh winter conditions as well as night vision systems and gas masks.
Finland destroyed some 1.3 million anti-personnel mines after it joined the Ottawa mine ban convention back in 2012 but has since replaced that capability with remote-controlled smart mines and area denial systems.
The military holds an extensive range of transport vehicles, with wheels and caterpillar bands, both for men and equipment.
The Finnish Air Force has a fleet of 61 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, which are being replaced by 64 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II jets, the delivery of which will begin in 2026.
In addition to the jet fleet, the Air Force has dozens of training aircraft and surveillance radars, including ones that have a range of almost 500 km (300 miles).
The Finnish Navy has four command vessels, five minelayers, eight missile craft, three mine countermeasure vessels, 13 mine sweepers, in addition to smaller landing craft.
It is acquiring three new multi-role corvettes for surface combat which are currently under construction in Finland to enter service by 2029.
Photo: A Finnish F/A-18 Hornet (Puolustusvoimat / The Finnish Defence Forces)