Rear Admiral Kari Takanen
Finnish national defense is based on general conscription, territorial defense, and military non-alliance. The main task of the navy is to defend Finland and its territorial waters, while also supporting other authorities and participating in international military crisis management. The Finnish Navy will focus on the balanced development of its naval and coastal units in accordance with these three tasks. At the beginning of 2015, the Finnish Defence Forces implemented a major reform that balances our tasks with available resources. The Finnish Navy has fulfilled its share of the reform to be even more capable and operational in the 2020s. The newly formed Coastal Fleet is the spearhead of the navy and comprises all the fighting ships under one command.
The Baltic Sea is a busy waterway, and its traffic is increasing both in numbers of vessels and their size. It also has strategic importance for Finland as almost 90 percent of our foreign trade moves in hulls. Keeping these sea routes open in all scenarios is vital for Finland, thus future acquisition projects must take into account the need to secure our sea lines of communication beyond our territorial waters.
The Baltic Sea region today is relatively stable and secure. However, military activity clearly increased in 2014. For the navy this means that we will have to be more active and capable of executing surveillance and safeguarding our territorial waters. Our surface combatants are modern and capable. In the coming years, our main effort will be to begin a procurement program for a new class of surface ship to replace those aging out in the 2020s. This new vessel has to be capable of operating in our archipelago all year-round, including in icy winter conditions, and it should also have a reasonable blue-water capability. Known as the Squadron 2020, it will be operational in the mid 2020s, and it will form the backbone of our future naval defense.
Working with reliable and capable partners is of utmost importance in today’s world. Finland is a member of the European Union and an active partner in NATO. Regional cooperation with Nordic countries and bilateral cooperation with other key nations improve our military capability, increase interoperability, and are cost-effective.
During 2014 Finnish Defence Forces received political guidance to study the possibilities of deepening our cooperation with Sweden. Bilaterally, Swedish-Finnish naval cooperation has a long history. Common interest in improved exercises and surveillance cooperation has contributed to a comprehensive vision and road map for future development—namely the Swedish-Finnish Naval Task Group concept. In the future we hope that this cooperation will provide both navies more operational capability and the tools to participate in international crisis-management duties together.
To maintain a safe and secure maritime environment, to prevent friction, and advance positive developments, we must continue to network and build partnerships, share information, and collaborate with all essential regional and bilateral states.