Finland Navy - Merivoimat
The main peacetime mission of the navy (Merivoimat), together with the coast guard, was to conduct surveillance of territorial waters and fishing zones and to identify violators. During a crisis situation or hostilities, the navy would be called upon to prevent unauthorized use of Finland's territorial waters, to protect vital sea routes and maritime traffic, and to close off its most important ports. Treaty obligations and strategic concerns made securing the demilitarized Aland Islands a key wartime mission of the navy. This it would do with the help of the army, coast artillery, and the coast guard. If faced by an amphibious attack, the navy's objective would be to wear down the aggressor and to restrict his operations.
The tasks of the Navy for the defense of Finland include the control of maritime areas and the prevention of violations of the sea, the protection of maritime connections and the prevention of maritime attacks. The Finnish Navy monitors the Finnish sea areas twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year. The importance of the Baltic Sea as a transit route for energy and trade is vital for Finland. Preventing and obstructing the use of the sea and cutting off Finland's western connections are affecting society as a whole.
Maritime defense must be able to manage the maritime and archipelago areas important for its own operations in the future. Marine management is formed by mining sea areas and using surface combat missiles. Coastal troops must be able to protect key targets and activities. The combat capability must be able to extend far to the sea in areas capable of attacking the defense system and society. This requires a snapshot, leadership and ability to influence the targets.
The purpose of naval performance and capacity building is to carry out statutory tasks. The Defense Forces have four main functions: defending Finland's military, supporting other authorities, providing and receiving international assistance, and participating in international military crisis management. The Navy maintains a timely operational picture and participates in multinational surveillance of the Baltic Sea through various projects. On-call, security and surveillance capabilities are maintained around the clock and throughout the year.
The duality of the naval activities of the ┼land defence and the defence of the capital Region necessitated the ability of fleet forces to operate in two operating directions simultaneously with the missile and minting units and to maintain freedom of action. In the use of missile fire, the joint exercises with the coastal forces marine interceptions and coastal zones were regular. Mines retained the position as a strategic weapon for maritime defence. With the 1995 Regional Sea extension, the potential for maritime defence improved as the defence measures gained greater depth and the potential for the protection of maritime transport improved. Naval tasks would be carried out in an integrated manner with the army coast artillery and the air force. The shallow waters of the coastline, broken by an extensive archipelago, would facilitate the laying of defensive mines, which would figure importantly in defense against seaborne invasion. Although the fleet units were limited in size and in weaponry, their maneuverability and missile-based firepower could inflict damage on a hostile force operating in Finnish waters and in adjacent sea areas. The precise form in which a naval threat might develop was unclear, because a Soviet invasion by sea was unlikely and Western ships would be directly exposed to Soviet naval strength in the Baltic, in the event of general conflict. By providing for control over its own coastal waters, however, Finland hoped to convince the Soviets that the Gulf of Finland would be secure and that the approaches to Leningrad would not be left unguarded.
Under the 1947 Treaty of Paris, naval manpower strength was limited to 4,500. In addition to the overall limit of 10,000 tons, the navy was not permitted to operate submarines or torpedo boats. The largest vessels were two small corvettes of 660 tons, each armed with 120mm guns and antisubmarine rocket launchers. Eight missile boats were armed with Swedish and Soviet ship-to-ship missile systems. Four more missile boats were due to be delivered in the early 1990s. These boats were supported by inshore patrol craft, together with minelaying and minesweeping vessels.
During the Cold War, naval defense was based on tactics and methods built around mine, missile, and coastal artillery systems. The concept was, to put it simply: mines were used to make battle space advantageous for the defender and to raise the attack threshold. As the opponent's landing begins, masses of missiles are fired to consume the attacker at sea. Near the target area, control responsibility shifts to coastal artillery, which defendes against landings in the archipelago and along the coastline. The miner warfare units had to deal with their task alone, as defensive missile boats could not be endangered in offshore operations. They had to survive to the point of shooting, what preceded the migration to the archipelago of a decentralized grouping. These tactics maintained deterrence, avoided enemy control, and avoided being targeted. The tactics were simple and everyone had their own task.
By the end of the Cold War, in peacetime the main naval units were organized into gunboat, missile boat, and mine warfare flotillas. Under wartime conditions, they would be organized into task forces with a mix of vessels as required for specific operations. The wartime task forces would be directed by the navy commander in chief and would be part of the general forces. Naval assets operating with the coast artillery would be directed by the commander of the military area in which they were located and would form part of the local forces. All three flotillas were based at the navy's operational headquarters at Pansio, near Turku in the southwest, where an archipelago with few navigable channels, guarded by coastal fortifications, would present great obstacles to an intruding naval force. The gunboat flotilla consisted of one corvette as a command ship and the ten Tuima class missile boats and Nuoli class fast attack craft. The missile squadron consisted of the other corvette and the four Helsinki class missile boats. The mine warfare squadron was made up of the minelayers and minesweepers. A patrol flotilla, based at Helsinki, operated the Ruissalo and Rihtniemi class attack craft.
In the Navy, battle squad tactics were refined to perfection in the late 20th century, even though the immediate threat of landing was receding. Due to the quantitative and technical superiority of the opponent, the proactive approach was not seen as a realistic option. The initiative was clearly with the attacker. The tactics used by the Navy after the wars were based on optimizing the capabilities of the available weapon systems. Common tactical bases for action were provided by the weapons guides and the Battle Tactics Guidelines introduced in 1994. The most important guidance, however, was the weapon-specific instructions, which provided detailed guidance on missile firing and mining operations. These were like a combination of operative instructions and rules.
As the threat of landing declined, the focus of tasks shifted back to securing sea lanes. As the mission changed, so did internationalization. Vessel units became familiar with NATO practices and doctrine in international exercises. As the number of troops continues to shrink, the naval defense has had to adapt to an increasingly dynamic operational skill model, replacing quantitative Naval Force with seamless troop collaboration.
Owing to a serious manpower shortage, by the end of the Cold War only about half of the fleet was manned and operational under peacetime conditions. The readiness of the remaining ships was reportedly maintained at an adequate level by keeping them heated, by frequently testing their systems, and by rotating them into active service.
During a period of crisis or conflict, the Coast Guard, which was part of the RVL, would be integrated into the navy. Several of its larger patrol craft of the Tursas and Kiisla class were fitted with antisubmarine warfare weapons. A large number of patrol boats were equipped with submarine tracking gear.
In national exercises, the Navy develops domestic defense. The exercises range from basic unit-level exercises to all naval capabilities and troops to extensive joint exercises across the defense. Training with other authorities will develop the capacity to act as part of the overall security of society and support other authorities. The Navy is practicing with other authorities in areas such as oil spills, marine salvage and underwater explosives clearance. International exercises develop the ability to act as part of a multinational unit and thus prepare for international crisis management, for example in UN, EU or NATO-led operations. International activities support national training and the development of maritime defense.
The Uusimaa 17 exercise is the National Navy's main exercise of the year, with all naval force units participating. Based on a rapid situational framework, hybrid threats and co-operation between authorities, this exercise is an excellent basis for practicing all the statutory duties of the Navy in co-operation with other branches of defense and authorities. From the Coast Guard Brigade's point of view, the largest naval training unit in the Navy, the demanding conditions in the autumn have shown that the training of the conscripts is a good model. The training of conscripts brings good skills to the reserve.
The basic elements of the Finnish naval defense have remained quite unchanged since the last wars. Navy units and coast troops work together to protect the sea borders and preserve Finnish freedom of action in the archipelago. Mines are an integral part of layered defense in the ability of surface ships to fight togetherwith sea missiles, cannons and shorter range missiles. Coastal defense combined with minesweepers and with the mobile fleet have operational effect based on local conditions and operating environments.
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