Control of the air isn’t a cornerstone of Finland’s defense, as it is for a country like Australia. Instead, Finland needs to make its airspace dangerous enough to deny enemies full air dominance, while its difficult terrain and mobile land forces bleed any Russian invasion until it quits.
That thinking fed into Finland’s recent decision to upgrade its medium and long-range air defenses, Russian 9K37-M1 Buk (SA-11 ‘Gadfly’) intermediate range anti-aircraft missiles, and radars with NATO-compliant solutions. The move was Finland’s largest single defense purchase since it bought its current fighter fleet of over 60 F/A-18C/D Hornets. The next step is to replace some of its man-portable, short range missile systems.
Nordic Cooperation: NASAMS for Finland
The SA-11s were given to Finland in 2006, contributing $300 million toward the settlement of Soviet-era debts. The Buk is a successor to the SA-6 systems that featured prominently in several Mideast wars, and is also combat-proven. Russian forces used them to shoot down several Georgian drones, while Georgian forces reportedly used them to down at least 4 SU-25 close air support aircraft and a TU-22 bomber during Russia’s 2008 invasion. Upgrading Finland’s systems to 9K37-M2/M3 status was seen as a lower-cost option, but Finland decided to go with more advanced NATO systems for its Medium Range Air Defense Missile System (MRADMS) competition.
The finalists came down to 2 choices. On one side was Kongsberg’s NASAMS, which uses the same AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles that equip the Finnish Air Force. On the other side was MBDA’s SAMP/T, a land-based version of the advanced naval systems that equip Britain, France, and Italy’s top-line air defense ships.
Kongsberg of Norway’s NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) won. This system has been adopted by Norway, the Netherlands, and Spain, controlling ground-launched AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. A similar SL-AMRAAM setup is used in the USA to protect Washington, DC. Finland’s neighbor Sweden uses NASAMS command and control system as their GBADOC command center, directing their Giraffe radars, and RBS-70, BAMSE, and Hawk air defense missiles. Greece and Turkey use the NASAMS C2 in a similar way, to handle their Hawk XXI missile batteries.
NASAMS’ core is a combination of the AN/MPQ-64 F1 Improved Sentinel 3D X-band radar and the AIM-120 AMRAAM active guidance missiles. The AMRAAM missile’s active radar homing means that external radar guidance is no longer required once the target comes within the missile’s own seeker range. That allows tactics like rotating burst scans from the radars, coupled with network sharing to improve survival odds, and confirm position data for incoming aircraft, UAVs, or cruise missiles.
The AIM-120’s missile range of up to 25 km is significantly shorter than the SAMP/T’s Aster-30’s range of up to 100 km, and is even shorter than the existing SA-11’s 35 km. It aims to offset that advantage by using a dispersed defense pattern to broaden coverage, and network existing radars via radio data links. This will allow them to remove terrain-caused “radar shadows,” creating a real-time air picture that can be shared with other systems.
Engagement can even take place with radars completely shut down. NASMS can use external data sources for position tracking, supplemented by NASMS’ MSP-500 electro-optical surveillance system in fair weather, in order to establish a target’s location and verify its identity for firing.
A truck-mounted Fire Distribution Center provides command and control, offering seamless integration for a variety of missile systems from Patriot to man-potable very short range systems. The FDC automatically performs track correlation, identification, jam strobe triangulation, threat evaluation and weapon assignment.
Raytheon and its ThalesRaytheon Joint venture provide many of NASAMS core systems, including the AIM-120 missiles, MPQ-64 Sentnel radars, and FDC integration for the USA. Kongsberg acts as overall integrator for NASAMS, including production of the MSP 500, plus computing and software used by the system to network it together and enable sharing with other systems.
Compared to MBDA’s SAMP/T, NASAMS has much shorter range, lower aerodynamic performance, less vertical reach, a less advanced controlling radar, and lower-end technology generally. If required, SAMP/T Aster-30s and Arabel radars could even be used in a ballistic missile defense role, something that’s entirely beyond NASAMS. Kongsberg’s advantages included a cost advantage reported to be around 2:1, the ability to deploy more radars and protect more sites, the combat resiliency that accompanies their multi-radar deployment approach, and no need for a slope-free view.
Each system reportedly had supporters within Finland, but the country’s defense establishment appears to be more comfortable with dispersed defense of selected areas, rather than aiming for more centralized but wider-reaching airspace control. Finnish Chief of Defence Juhani Kaskeala was blunt:
“Instead of one Cadillac, we bought 4 Volvos. Now we are getting more missiles than with the other option.”
The final contract is scheduled for autumn 2009, and deliveries will begin in 2011. Training of conscripts for the use of the new system will begin in 2012, in Parola near Hameenlinna. The new system is expected to become operational by 2015, at which point Finland expects to start phasing out its existing SA-11s.
The NASAMS II air defense batteries will be supplemented by existing MBDA Crotale Next-Generation missiles and radars mounted on Sisu XA-981 wheeled armored vehicles, and by the Finnish army’s SA-16/18 Igla shoulder-fired missiles.
Finnish Maj. Gen. Jarmo Lindberg underscored the importance of new radars and upgrades to that mix when he said that:
“Radars are cut off every week, and the surveillance minimum is not reached.”
Finland’s Teresa 22XX medium range radar will be upgraded as part of this program, and will be complemented in the short term by the mal-acronymed JOKE 87 mobile radar system using Saab’s Giraffe MK IV C-band radar.
Most of the funds for network improvements will buy new radars, however, as Finland supplements existing coverage with ThalesRaytheon’s transportable X-band AN/APQ-64 F1 Sentinels, and adds long range surveillance provided by that same company’s S/I/J band Ground Master 403 radars. The Ground Master series has a surveillance range of about 390 km/ 242 miles against combat aircraft, and is designed for deployment in remote areas and hostile climates. They can also be mounted on large trucks, and made fully mobile.
Contracts and Key Events
2012 – 2014
Finland buys Stingers for SHORAD; GM403 delivery.
Jan 24/14: SHORAD. The Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reports that Finland has committed to sign a EUR 90 million (about $123 million) contract for Raytheon’s FIM-92 Stinger RMP Block 1 missiles. That’s well short of the $330 million approved under their DSCA request (q.v. Oct 31/11), but it’s large enough that it will need to be cleared by the cabinet’s monetary policy committee next week.
Finnish defense minister Carl Haglund says that they “…got them at an extremely competitive price…. I’m thrilled that we can buy the Stingers, because they are by far the best in the world for this purpose.” Finland reportedly evaluated MBDA’s Mistral, evolved variants of Saab’s RBS-70, and SA-18 derivatives from Russia (Igla-S), Poland (GROM) and South Korea (Chiron).
Stingers will reportedly be used to replace Finland’s current arsenal of Russian-made SA-16/18 Igla missiles and 23mm “Sergei” (ZU-23, or 23 ItK 95 in Finland) towed guns, though some reports state that the Finnish Igla stock will merely shrink as some existing missiles are stripped for parts. Swedish RBS-70 laser-guided short-range air defense missiles are expected to remain in service. Sources: Helsingin Sanomat, “Ohjuskauppoja edelsi sotilaiden koulutus” | Helsingin Sanomat, “Finland to splash on US-made Stinger missiles” | YLE, “HS: Finland to splurge 90 million on US Stinger missiles”.
Stinger missile buy
Sept 9/13: SHORAD. Raytheon touts successful Stinger missile trials in Finland, as their missiles tracked and simulated engagements against Finnish F/A-18 Hornet fighters, NH90 helicopters, and a Banshee drone. They carefully avoided saying that Finland had picked the missile, which appears to be at the evaluation stage alongside other contenders (q.v. Nov 17/10). Sources: Raytheon, Sept 9/13 release.
Jan 15/13: GM403 accepted. An official ceremony at Finnish Air Force headquarters in Tikkakoski marks the delivery of ThalesRaytheonSystems’ 1st Ground Master 403 (GM 403) long-range air defense radar system, and site acceptance by the Finnish Ministry of Defense. That leaves 11 more truck-mounted GM403s to go. ThalesRaytheon Systems.
2010 – 2011
SHORAD competition; GBAD Sub-contracts.
Oct 31/11: SHORAD. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Finland’s official request to buy the latest model FIM-92 Stinger man-portable air defense missiles, and associated equipment. At this stage, there are no reports confirming that the Stinger has been picked over other Very Short Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) contenders. As such, it’s possible that the request is just a way to ensure sales clearance, and hence the Stinger’s eligibility for the competition. If Finland does in fact choose the Stinger and signs a contract, the request involves:
* 600 FIM-92 Stinger Reprogrammable Micro-Processor (RMP) Block 1 Anti-Aircraft missiles
* 10 Stinger Block 1 Production Verification Flight Test missiles
* 110 Gripstock Block 1 Control Groups. These are the carryable launchers.
* 110 Night Sights
* 1827 Battery Coolant Units
* 2 GCU-31A/E Gas Charging Units
* 16 Tracking Head Trainers (THT) and metal containers
* 50 Field Handling Trainers (FHT) and metal containers
* 1 Stinger Troop Proficiency Trainer
* 1 Launch Simulator
* Plus refurbishment, upgrades, spare and repair parts, tools and tool sets, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.
The estimated cost is up to $330 million, and the prime contractor would be Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ. Implementation would require 10 U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Finland for a period of 8 weeks for equipment checkout and training.
SHORAD: Stinger request
April 1/11: Sub-contractors. Sisu Defence Oy announces that it has delivered the 1st batch of Sisu 8×8 and Sisu 4×4 off-road military trucks for use in the NASAMS FIN air defence system. Sisu’s heavy-duty 4-axle 8×8 off-road trucks are the main trucks used, equipped with cargo platforms and multilift hook-lifts integrated to the truck frame. Sisu’s 4×4 medium off-road trucks are used in light supply and support functions.
Deliveries will continue through 2014, under a EUR 17 million contract.
Nov 17/10: SHORAD. Defense News reports that Finland is preparing an RFP for Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) systems. The request for proposals is expected in 2011, with orders placed in the 2011-15 time frame, and first deliveries by 2015. Defense News says that “The value of the contract is certain to be influenced by political decisions regarding the future size of Finland’s regional and reserve forces, which is expected to be significantly reduced by 2014.” On the other hand, recent conflicts teach that anti-aircraft missiles are extraordinarily valuable to defensive forces.
Finland currently operates Russian SA-18 Igla-M and Swedish RBS-70 missiles in this role, and the new buy is reportedly set to replace the Russian SA-18s and 23mm “Sergei” (ZU-23, or 23 ItK 95 in Finland) towed guns. The Finns are reportedly looking at the “usual suspects” from France (MBDA’s Mistral), Sweden (Saab’s RBS-70/Bolide), and the USA (FIM-92 Stinger, possibly combined mounted Avenger), as well as Russia (SA-24 Igla-S), and SA-18 derived Polish (PZR GROM) and South Korean (LIG Nex1’s Chiron) systems.
2008 – 2009
Finland picks its winners: NASAMS-II, GM400 & Sentinel radars.
June 30/09: Sub-contractors. Patria Oyj announces a EUR 36 million contract from Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS. Patria will be responsible for manufacturing and assembling of the NASAMS launchers, and will also participate in the system integration.
June 25/09: GBAD. Kongsberg announces a contract signing in Helsikni with Finnish Army Material Command Headquarters. The agreement’s value is described as “approx. NOK 3 billion for the NASAMS II air defence system”; at current exchange, that amounts to about EUR 330 million/ $465 million.
May 5/09: Radars. ThalesRaytheon Systems announces a EUR 200 million ($265 million equivalent) contract to deliver radars and upgrades to Finland, and provide Estonia with long-range air defense systems.
ThalesRaytheon will deliver 12 Ground Master 403 radar systems to Finland, and another 2 for Estonia. This will be the largest order so far for the Ground Master family, which has already been purchased by France, Malaysia and Slovenia.
The other component of the contract is a Mid Life Upgrade for 5 of Finland’s Thales Teresa 22XX Long Range Air Identification and Surveillance radars. The upgrades will add digital technologies and electronics to upgrade performance, improve maintenance, and extend their useful life by another 15 years.
The contract is signed on June 16/09. ThalesRaytheon will also provide 12 AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel radars as part of the NASAMS order, but that contract will come from Kongsberg, not the Finnish government.
April 29/09: GBAD. Finland makes its choice: NASAMS II. Contract signing is expected in autumn 2009. The total price for the systems, which includes radars and electro-optical systems, is expected exceed EUR 522 million ($690 million equivalent) before VAT taxes. The expected breakdown is EUR 346 million for NASAMS and EUR 176 million for radar upgrades. Finland expects to buy an additional EUR 120 million worth of AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles during next electoral term, and has already set aside EUR 700 million total for this program.
As part of the agreed-upon deal, industrial offsets equal to 100% of the deal’s value must be provided. Some of that will buy components for Finland’s NASAMS system, such as Sisu Defence’s EUR 25 million contract for 82 trucks, to be manufactured at it Raasepori factory between 2010-2014. Sisu and ThalesRaytheon also have an option to supply the Estonian Defence Forces with a radar system [the Ground Master 403 long-range radar], which would complement Estonia’s own recent air defense purchases from Saab and MBDA. Finland’s Patria Oyj is negotiating to supply launching pads, and participate in system integration.
As part of this program, Finland’s existing radars will reportedly receive upgrades, as well as supplementation by long-range air surveillance and defense radars. Cost is reported as EUR 176 million, with EUR 145 million dedicated to ThalesRaytheon for 12 “portable long-range radars.” Its Master-T and related Ground Master 400 radars are the only candidates fitting that description. See: Forsvarsministeriet release [in Finnish] | Kongsberg release | Defense Update | Helsingin Sanomat | YLE | YLE advance report
Jan 21/09: GBAD. Reports indicate that the Finnish government is moving away from SA-11 modernization, and intends to select either the Kongsberg NASAMS or MBDA SAMP/T missile systems as the cornerstone of Finland’s next-generation air defense system. Defense News.
Jan 5/09: Infrastructure. Finnish Minister of Defence Seppo Kaariainen announces that the Hyryla garrison in Tuusula, north of Helsinki, would be shut down as part of broader cost-cutting measures presented to the Parliamentary Defence and Finance Committees. It had housed the Helsinki Air Defence Regiment, which operates Finland’s SA-11 missiles alongside ZSU anti-aircraft guns and 9K38/SA-16 Igla shoulder-fired missiles.
Kaarinainen added that moving the unit to the Parola garrison in Hameenlinna would provide an opportunity to upgrade equipment, adding that “it is of secondary importance if the forces are trained in Hyryla or in Parola.” Helsingin Sanomat.
Nov 7/08: GBAD. Finland’s MTV 3 news announces that NASAMS has won the competition for the medium-range antiaircraft missile system. The Ministry of Defence says that the competition continues, and turn out to be correct.
It should be noted that sources could be found to indicate that either competitor had won the competition, before a winner was finally announced in April 2009. Source.
* Finnish Forsvarsmakten, via WayBack – Area defence AA missile. The SA-11/ 9K37-M1.
* Finnish Forsvarsmakten, via WayBack – AA command centre. The JOKE 87 radar system.
* Finnish Forsvarsmakten, via WayBack – Point defence AA missile. The mobile Crotale system.
* Army Technology – Crotale NG Multi-Mission Air Defense Missile System, France
* Defense Update – Igla-S, Igla-1: SA-16/18. Shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Likely to be replaced.
* DID – Finnish Army Buys More RBS-70 MANPADS. These will remain at the low end of Finland’s air defenses.
* Suomen Sotilas/ Finnish Soldier – Finland’s future antiaircraft missile solution. By Pauli Thomenius – Lieutenant Colonel, General Staff (retired). Offers a general overview, with a focus on Kongsberg’s NASAMS. His follow-on article offered a more in-depth look at MBDA’s SAMP/T [PDF format].
* Kongsberg – Surface-Launched AMRAAM. Note that the same NASMS canister launcher and system can also mount short range AIM-9Xs or IRIS-Ts, as well as longer-range AMRAAM-ER and RIM-162 ESSM missiles, with full ability to mix and match.
* Army Technology – Surface-Launched AMRAAM (SL-AMRAAM / CLAWS) Medium-Range Air Defence System, USA.
* Army Technology – Aster 30 SAMP/T – Surface-to-Air Missile Platform / Terrain, Europe
* ThalesRaytheon – AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel. NASAMS’ air defense radar.
* ThalesRaytheon – Master-T. Long range air surveillance radar, with 360 degree coverage out to 440 km/ 273 miles. The Ground Master 400 variant is designed for use in remote areas, which could also be very useful to Finland. Both radars can be mounted on trucks to improve mobility.
* DID (May 6/08) – SLAMRAAM Program Slammed by Inspector General. The Army disagrees. DID read the full report, and the disagreements, and presents them.
* DID (Dec 8/06) – Dutch Order NASAMS-SLAMRAAM Air Defense Systems. In 2004, they decided to use EADS TRML-3D radars as a complement to this system.
Short Range Systems
* Global Security – 9K338 9M342 Igla-S / SA-24 Grinch
* Army Recognition – LIG Nex1 at IndoDefence 2010. Re: their Chiron missile.
* Global Security – KP-SAM / KPSAM New Bow (Shingung / Shingoong). Singung is the Chiron’s Korean name.
* Army Technology – MBDA’s Mistral
* Army Technology – RBS 70 Short-Range Anti-Aircraft Missile, Sweden
* Designation Systems – Raytheon (General Dynamics) FIM-92 Stinger
* Army Technology – Avenger Low-Level Air Defense System, USA. Note that Avenger would compete with Finland’s mobile Crotale NG batteries, and Finland is emphasizing personal portability. That lowers the odds for Avenger.
* DID (Sept 1/08) – Estonia Chooses New SHORAD Air Defense System. Finland’s near-neighbor built around Giraffe AMB mobile radars, and MBDA Mistral man-portable missiles. The long range Ground Master radars will add add a very useful boost to Estonia’s capabilities.
Additional Readings: Related Issues
* DID (Feb 9/09) – A Nordic Alliance? The proposals involve both defense industry cooperation, and foreign policy cooperation.
* Associated Press, via WayBack (Aug 18/08) – War Reveals Russia’s Military Might and Weakness. Vladimir Isachenkov discusses the Georgia war.
* StrategyPage (Aug 14/08) – Russia Takes A Beating Over Georgia. StrategyPage attributes Russian air losses to Georgia’s SA-11 systems, despite the presence of short-range SA-15 Tor systems in Georgia’s forces.
* Civil Georgia (May 6/08) – SA-11 ‘Gadfly’ used to Down Georgian Drones – Abkhaz FM