WASHINGTON – Finland is nearing a decision on how best to arm its upcoming fleet of new ship designs, with two U.S. weapons among the finalists.
Finland is replacing seven different vessels – three minelayers and four fast attack missile crafts – with four of the Squadron 2020 class Corvettes. According to a government timeline, the ship production contracts will be handed out by the end of this year, with construction starting in 2019. A first test run of the ship design will occur in 2022, with all four ships operational by 2027.
As part of that ship upgrade plan, Helsinki is eyeing how best to arm the new ships. Officially, that decision will come sometime in 2018, but there are indications the weapon selection could come in the first half of the year.
In a Feb. 27 interview with Defense News, Finnish Defence Policy Director-General Janne Kuusela stressed that Finland would consider all options for the weapon systems, noting that the Finnish defense industry is not capable of providing such assets. However, Finland has not specified what non-U.S. suppliers are being considered as alternatives.
“We are one of the few nations that do procure weapons through open competition,” Kuusela said. “So, we make sure that we get the best kit for best price.”
The Trump administration has already laid the groundwork to ease potential weapon sales, with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency having already cleared two potential packages of armaments through the U.S. Senate. Alerting the Senate of potential sales, even before a system is selected, saves time in the foreign military sales process.
The first package covered 68 Evolved Seasparrow Missiles (ESSM) and one ESSM inert operational missile, along with associated parts and technical expertise, with an estimated cost of $112.7 million. These weapons are for use on Finland’s new Squadron 2020 class Corvette ships.
The second package, which comes with an estimated price tag of $622 million, covers a mix of surface launched Harpoon weapons, which will go on Finland’s Hamina class ships, the new Corvettes, and Coastal Batteries. Included in this package are 100 RGM-84Q-4 Harpoon Block II Plus Extended Range (ER) Grade B Surface-Launched Missiles, 12 RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Grade B Surface-Launched Missiles, 12 RGM-84Q-4 Harpoon Block II+ ER Grade B Surface-Launched Upgrade Kits, four RTM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Grade B Exercise Surface-Launched Missiles, and four RTM-84Q-4 Harpoon Block II+ ER Grade B Exercise Surface-Launched Missiles.
If selected, the ESSM package would be done at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona, for the missiles, and BAE Systems in Aberdeen, South Dakota, for the missile canisters. On the Harpoon package, work would be done by Boeing’s St. Louis factory.
But the opportunities for American industry go beyond just missiles. As Finland stands up its new multi-role Corvettes, American firms stand to benefit with potential sales of sensors and equipment aboard those designs.
“The ships are constructed in the Finnish dockyards, but basically most of the things inside it are procured from abroad,” Kuusela said. “So they will have lots of U.S. technology in those ships, the sensors and weapons systems and weapons ammunition.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.