A new U.S. defense strategy unveiled in January calls for a resized, refocused military. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world’s sea services: In an era of austere defense budgets and rapidly increasing technologies, what are the strategic objectives for your naval force over the next 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Rear Admiral Veli-Jukka Pennala
The main mission of the Finnish Navy is the maritime defense of Finland. Other responsibilities include supporting various maritime authorities and participation in international military-crises management missions. The navy specializes in surface and underwater warfare operations in an extreme littoral environment. Our force is a combination of navy and coastal units, such as coastal rangers and coastal fire-support units. Maritime defense will be executed in a synchronized manner with the air force and the army, making good use of the joint capabilities of the Finnish Defence Forces.
For its part in defense reform the navy will face major challenges as a declining defense budget and increasing personnel and matériel costs have to be balanced. This means downsizing organizations and structures. Procurement and maintenance plans have to be revised. Balancing the budget is a challenging task, but if it isn’t done there will not be adequate resources for sea days and new matériel. Reform will be implemented by 2015.
The core of the navy consists of well-educated professionals. It is complemented with conscripts who serve up to 12 months. Conscription is the backbone for high-quality reserve forces, and the system is also an efficient recruitment channel. We will continue to rely on general conscription
The matériel status of the navy is fairly good at the moment. Equipment is modern and mostly in a good shape. The near future will bring three sophisticated Katanpää-class mine countermeasures vessels (built in Italy) and some midlife upgrades for naval and coastal units.
With reduced resources, threats and capability gaps in the future will have to be addressed with a new operational concept. A part of this concept is enhanced international cooperation in areas such as maritime surveillance, training, and exercises. The Baltic Sea region creates a natural framework for cooperation.
Cooperation isn’t always easy: every nation has its own interests and procurement plans. However, wider cooperation is likely a “must” in the future. It would be too expensive to do otherwise. The next level is pooling and sharing. An important tool for us in this arena is the Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO).
The tasks and resources of the navy have to be kept in balance. This might mean cuts in numbers of personnel and hulls, but also procurement of new, more capable equipment. The core business of the Navy is warfighting. Thus competent and motivated personnel and modern matériel form an efficient capability for the navy. Tomorrow’s interoperable and networked navy will be smaller but smarter.