HELSINKI — Finland plans to increase its naval modernization budget in 2020 as part of a broad and ambitious effort to deepen its overall presence and surface capability in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia.

The Finnish Navy’s $1.5 billion Squadron 2020 Program is taking shape against the backdrop of a Baltic Sea that could one day host a military conflict between Russia and NATO. The Finnish military’s planned purchase of a new surface-to-air system is also linked to the Squadron 2020 Program.

A key part of the program features the acquisition of four multirole, ice-breaking Pohjanmaa-class corvettes with the ability to hunt submarines and equipped with requisite weapons and control systems. The project carries added significance for the Navy, as it means Finland’s maritime defense will be based on the Pohjanmaa-class ships.

In September, Finland’s Ministry of Defence named Rauma Marine Constructions and Saab as the two primary contract partners to build and deliver the Pohjanmaa-class ships under the Squadron 2020 Program. RMC and its subsidiary RMC Defence Oy are to build the ships in Finland. The total contract value of the ship-building portion is $720 million.

Saab will supply ship combat systems to the Pohjanmaa-class corvettes under a contract valued at $460 million.

“Aside from reaching an industrial cooperation deal with Saab, we have now also signed agreements covering the construction of vessels, the supply and integration of the combat system, and the supply of propellers and propeller shafts for the Pohjanmaa-class ships,” Finnish Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen said.

Aker Arctic Technology Oy, based in Helsinki, secured a $30 million contract to deliver propellers and propeller shafts to the Pohjanmaa-class build.

Construction of the ships is slated to begin in 2022. The four ships are expected to be fully operational by 2028.

For its part, Saab will deliver four integrated combat systems to the four Pohjanmaa-class corvettes. The onboard installations will include sensors, weapons and command systems.

The Squadron 2020 Program envisages that the four Pohjanmaa-class corvettes, along with the Finnish Navy’s Hamina-class missile boats, will form the backbone of the service from the mid-2020s onward.

The new Pohjanmaa-class corvettes are intended, within the strategic Baltic Sea area of operations, to contribute to Finland’s entire defense system, given that the ship’s systems will be fully interoperable with those of the Finnish Army and Air Force.

“The acquisition of the Pohjanmaa-class ships will not alone strengthen Finland’s naval defense, but it provides an added value to the country’s overall defense capability in the Baltic Sea. We will get a squadron that will meet both Finland’s peacetime and wartime needs,” said Rear Adm. Jori Harju, commander of the Finnish Navy.

Finland’s Defence Forces Logistics Command, under direction from the MoD, is working to procure a surface-to-air missile system for the Pohjanmaa-class corvettes under the Squadron 2020 Program. The new system, which will cost about $100 million, is expected to include Raytheon RIM-162 Evolved Seasparrow Missiles, launcher units, spare parts and a customized software package.

Gerard O'Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.

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