Here’s how Finland will strengthen military cooperation with Sweden in the near future

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Carl Haglund, the minister of defence, at the House of the Estates in January 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Carl Haglund, the minister of defence and his Swedish counterpart, Peter Hultqvist, received a report on Tuesday evening, which explains how the neighbouring countries will strengthen their military cooperation in the future.

Here are the highlights of the report conducted together by the militaries and the defence ministries of Finland and Sweden.

Navy

The ability to use each other’s naval bases and facilities to provide logistic support.

Using each other’s base infrastructure could enable the more flexible use of forces in other areas of operation.

For example, a Finnish unit operating in the Southern Baltic could use a Swedish base or a Swedish unit operating in the Gulf of Finland could use a Finnish base.

Enhanced cooperation on exercises in order to have a longer term planning perspective for national and bilateral exercise planning, the two navies have agreed to establish a quadrennial plan.

The agreed plan will be used in the two national ways of conducting exercise planning and funding.

Anti-submarine warfare exercises are included in the exercise plan as an integral part of naval exercises.

Deepened cooperation will increase the knowledge base thanks to the enhanced exchange of experiences and best practices. It will also allow for the possibility to operate with bigger units and utilise better target activities (submarines in anti-submarine warfare exercises and air targets in anti-air warfare exercises).

The use of each other’s base infrastructure will enable the more flexible use of forces in other areas of operation and situational awareness will be improved due to the higher level of information exchange.

The cooperation will also enable a better execution of national duties (surveillance and protection of integrity).

By using standard procedures and English language, instead of national procedures, the interoperability and operational effect will increase, but the importance of understanding each other’s native tongue should not be underestimated.

Air Force

The aim of common air operations is to achieve air supremacy and provide air support to land and maritime operations.

In the short term, mainly operational advantages from deepened cooperation between the air forces will be seen.

Improved operational capabilities will increase security in a regional context, enable the flexible use of resources and can bring increased cost-efficiency.

Helicopter operations

Cooperation possibilities concerning helicopter operations revealed that for a small operator, the support of a helicopter unit in an international crisis management operation is a big effort.

Such a unit would drain the domestic operations of even a large nation. A common unit established jointly by Finland and Sweden could enable this important contribution with affordable effort.

Operational cooperation would enable a quicker response, wider capability and better aerial coverage for both countries.

Army

The main mission of army cooperation is to develop a combined Finnish-Swedish brigade framework to prepare forces to be used, if so decided, for crisis management operations and national defence purposes.

Developing situational awareness between the armies, group-level force structure and combined forward air control training and education are examples of capabilities that will significantly enhance Finnish and Swedish capacities to be used in crisis management operations and for national defence purposes.

Sharing information on capability development plans may enable complementary capability development, greater interoperability and the avoidance of unnecessary duplication or overlap of capabilities.

Live and staff exercises, combined winter, urban terrain and forward air control training are examples of training that would benefit from coordinated or mutual development.

Logistics

The deepened logistic cooperation between Finland and Sweden is a long term commitment and the aim is to optimise the use of resources, common causes, increase interoperability and achieve capability for combined action both domestically and internationally.

This is done through cooperation in development, production and the sustainment of systems identified by the operational users as particularly relevant in bilateral activities.

The core objectives of armaments cooperation are in general

a) operational – to increase military effectiveness through interoperability,

b) economic – to reduce weapons’ acquisition costs by sharing costs or avoiding the duplication of development efforts

c) technical – to access the best defence technology and help minimise the capabilities gap.

Secure communications

Currently, Finland and Sweden do not have secure lines of communications at strategic and political level, with the exception of a diplomatic courier.

With the new ambition of deeper defence cooperation it is therefore important to establish new possibilities for exchanging classified information.

One of the biggest advantages is that it will allow for the immediate possibility to communicate through secure communications when needed. This will allow for the more effective use of time and money.

Areas of further study

The possibilities of deepening the cooperation between the national defence courses organised by the Finnish National Defence University and Swedish National Defence College should be explored.

The report proposes enhancing cooperation possibilities relating to the cyber dimension and the exchange of information between Sweden’s and Finland’s military computer emergency response teams.

This information exchange should it will allow for the immediate possibility to communicate through secure communications when needed and other actor-driven threats against IT systems.

Challenges

In order to get the full effect from the deepened defence cooperation between Finland and Sweden, it is estimated that it would initially require additional personnel and financial resources.

Otherwise the deepened cooperation has to be facilitated by allocating and focusing already existing resources, with the risk that national priorities will prevail and the effect of the cooperation will be delayed.

Another challenge is that one has to be aware of cultural and practical differences. In the bilateral cooperation between Finland and Sweden, it becomes obvious that the respective systems of the armed forces are different.The Finnish system is based on conscription and Sweden uses only professional forces. Differences in systems can pose challenges in terms of readiness.

Furthermore, a secure communications network along with information exchange equipment is a key enabler of effective cooperation at all levels.

It is crucial that regulations for classified information exchange are defined, approved and implemented prior to entering deeper cooperation.

Source: Final reports on deepened defence cooperation between Finland and Sweden (2015)

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