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Finnish Navy
Merivoimat
Marinen
Suomen Merivoimien tunnus.svg
Finnish Navy emblem
Active 1918–present
Country Finland
Role Naval defence
Size 6,700 personnel, 31,500 personnel mobilized
Battle honours Russo-Swedish War (1788–1790)
Finnish Civil War
Continuation War
Commanders
Commander Vice-Admiral Juha Rannikko
Insignia
Naval Ensign Naval Ensign of Finland.svg

The Finnish Navy (Finnish: Merivoimat, Swedish: Marinen) is one of the branches of the Finnish Defence Forces. The Navy employs 2,300 people and about 4,300 conscripts are trained each year. Finnish Navy vessels are given the ship prefix "FNS" simply short for "Finnish Navy Ship".

Contents

Organization

The current Commander-in-Chief of the Navy is Vice Admiral Juha Rannikko. The navy is organized into two naval commands. The navy also includes the Uusimaa brigade, where coastal jaegers are trained. The Uusimaa brigade is also the only Swedish language unit in the country.

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Locations

Bases

Mobilization Strength

  • 2 Fast Attack Craft squadrons
  • 3 Mine Countermeasures squadrons
  • 2 Minelayers
  • 3 Auxiliary Minelayers
  • 2 Patrol Crafts
  • 2 Coastal Jaeger Battalions
  • 6 Coastal Jaeger Companies
  • 2 Coastal Missile Companies
  • 4 Anti-Ship missile Batteries
  • 4 Fixed coastal artillery units
  • 12 Mobile coastal artillery units

Total of 31,500 personnel

History

Finnish Naval Jack

During the Russian rule (1809 - 1917) an entirely Finnish Navy unit, Suomen Meriekipaasi, was defending the country alongside the Baltic Fleet of the Imperial Russian Navy. Meriekipaasi participated the Crimean War, albeit mostly on-shore duties. Meriekipaasi manned the coastal batteries in Santahamina Island during the siege of Fortress Viapori in Helsinki. The ships ekipaasi had included steam frigates Rurik and Kalevala, named after the Finnish national epic (later serving Russian Pacific Fleet).

The first ships of the independent Finnish Navy were old ships left behind by the Russians during the Finnish Civil War. These included gunboats, motor torpedo boats and minesweepers. In 1927 the Eduskunta approved a plan to build two coastal defence ships (Panssarilaiva in Finnish) and four submarines. Four motor torpedo boats were also ordered from Britain. More ships were purchased during the 1930s, and in the autumn of 1939 the Finnish Navy consisted of:

The navy also had several auxiliary warships, ice-breakers and patrol boats from the Coast Guard.

Winter War

When the Winter War broke out the Finnish Navy moved to occupy the de-militarized Åland Islands and to protect merchant shipping. In the first month of the war battles between Soviet ships and Finnish coastal batteries were fought at Hanko, Finland, Utö and Koivisto. In Koivisto the batteries forced Soviet battleships to retire with damage.

In December 1939 the ice became so thick that only the ice-breakers could still move. The two coastal defence ships were moved to the harbour in Turku where they were used to stiffen the air-defences of the city. They remained there for the rest of the war.

Continuation War

Before the Continuation War five more torpedo boats were ordered from Italy. The base that the Soviets had acquired in the Winter War at Hanko Peninsula divided the areas where the Finnish Navy would operate in two. Large mine fields were laid down in cooperation with the German Kriegsmarine when the war began. The coastal defence ships bombarded the Soviet base at Hanko until the Soviets evacuated Hanko in December 1941.

Between 1941–1945 some 69,779 mines and mine sweeping obstacles were laid in the Gulf of Finland by Finnish, Soviet and German naval forces. The Soviet Navy laid 16,179 mines and 2,441 mine sweeping obstacles, the Finnish navy 6,382 mines, and the German navy's vessels, submarines and aircraft laid some 45,000 mines, of which 3,000 were magnetic mines. The last mine sweeping season was held in 1957, but the mine danger continued for some 10 more years, and there are still mines there.[1]

The greatest loss of the Finnish Navy occurred on September 13, 1941 when the Ilmarinen ran into a mine and sank. 271 sailors lost their lives and only 132 were rescued. Most of the survivors later served in the Lake Onega flotilla, using old captured ships, including a steam engined paddlewheeler.

In 1942 the main focus of the war at sea was on the Finnish submarines which fought against over 30 Soviet submarines that tried to attack shipping in the Baltic Sea. The Soviet subs sank 18 ships, seven of which were Finnish. 12 Soviet submarines were also sunk.

In July 1942 the Soviets made an attempt to occupy the small island of Sommers in the Gulf of Finland. The Soviets lost 16 landing boats and minor warships together with 128 men. 102 Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner. During 1943 the navy received 14 new torpedo boats which were used to replace the old pre-war ones.

In 1944 the Soviets launched a major offensive against Finland, during which the navy fought in support of Finnish land forces the Gulf of Vyborg. In the end the ships were forced to pull out.

Lapland war

On September, 1944 the operations against Germany started. The main focus was in the north, the Lapland War, but the Germans also tried to capture Suursaari (Operation Tanne Ost). The attack was repulsed. During the battle, Finnish motor torpedo boats sank several German vessels.

The last action of the Finnish Navy was during the amphibious landing of troops from Oulu in Tornio. The Finnish gunboats successfully shelled German batteries, which had posed serious threat for the landingships, while their anti-aircraft batteries defended the convoy from German air attacks. The navy also hunted German U-boats in the Baltic, laying its last mines of the war while doing this.

After the Armistice the navy started very high demanding mine clearance operation, which lasted until 1950. Especially the Gulf of Finland had been extensively mined. The result were high casualties among the clearance crews.

The Cold War era

The Paris peace talks in 1947 resulted in a treaty that limited the offensive capability of the Finnish military. For the navy, this meant a limitation to a fleet of no more than 10,000 tons and 4,500 men. As for the weaponry, torpedoes, submarines, mines and missiles were forbidden. The restrictions were eased in the 1960s and missiles and mines were allowed. The torpedo restriction was not either fully exercised as the Riga class frigates were equipped with torpedoes and a number of torpedo boats were manufactured as "gun boats" (but could quickly be converted to carry torpedoes).

The war time navy vessels were replaced in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to the Finland's neutrality she tried to balance her new purchase of equipment between the two blocs and also produce its own ships. Two fast gun boats, some minesweepers and a Bay class frigate were bought from the UK, two frigates and four Osa II class fast attack craft (the Tuima class) from the Soviet Union. The smaller vessels were usually domestically produced.

Equipment

Finnish minelayer Uusimaa at Helsinki
Finnish Jurmo-class landing craft

Vessels

Patrol
Patrol/ASW
  • 2 Kiisla class patrol/ASW-ships (ex- Coast Guard patrolships)
Mine Warfare

Future vessels

In the late 1990s, the Finnish Navy was developing a new missile squadron called Laivue 2000 (English: Squadron 2000). At first it was supposed to consist of two Hamina class missile boats (already built at this date) and four Tuuli class hovercraft. The Navy experimented with one prototype hovercraft, but announced in 2003 that the Tuuli class would not enter active operations and that no more of them would be built. Instead two new Hamina class missile boats were built, and the extra weaponry from the hovercrafts were installed on the Hämeenmaa class minelayers.

As the new squadron is nearly finished the Navy has shifted its attention to mine prevention. The Navy will replace the old Kuha and Kiiski classes with three new minehunters. This new project also includes the development of a new mine, the Sea Mine 2000.

Three mine countermeasures vessels of the MCMV 2010 programme will be launched 2009-2011. The ships have been ordered from the Italian company Intermarine and the order is valued 244.8 M€.[2]

Next generation's surface combatant, one that would be bigger than the current missile boats and more capable for international co-operation, is in pre-development stage.[3]

Coastal Forces

Coastal Forces include both the Coastal Infantry and Jaeger forces and the remnants of Coastal Artillery, which has moved from fixed and towed guns to truck-mounted and infantry-carried anti-ship missiles. The towed guns are being phased out as obsolete and all artillery-based coastal defences are to be retired within a near future.

The Euro-Spike coastal missile system was taken into use in 2005 at the Uusimaa Brigade and the older truck-mounted RBS-15 missiles have been complemented with new, upgraded RBS-15 Mk.3 (known as MTO-85m).

Past equipment

Former ships of the Finnish Navy include:

For a complete list, see List of former ships of the Finnish Navy.

See also

References

  1. ^ Rannikon Puolustaja 3/2006, p. 59
  2. ^ [1]picture
  3. ^ Ruotuväki 10/08

External links


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