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Military readiness during a pandemic: Finnish local defense exercises 2021


Readiness battalion with their CV9030 (Photo: FDF)

The Finnish Defense Forces have put an extra effort to increasing their readiness and capability to counter surprising threats after the Russian invasion of Crimea. This has been possible as the focus of the FDF has remained in the defense of the Finnish territory against the Russian threat and unlike the rest of the European armed forces it still maintains a reserve based army geared for high intensity warfare.


Note the environmentally friendly wooden bullets in use (Photo:FDF)

Recent report from the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI) suggests that Russia still has an edge over the NATO forces in Eastern Europe. The Russian forces have the advantage of better strategic mobility, faster chain of command and superior numbers in land combat. This disparity increases the risks of a military conflict in Northern Europe. The FOI estimates that the Finnish and Swedish effort in a fight against a Russian offensive in the Baltic's would be crucial and that Russia would take action, either by using conventional forces or threats of a nuclear strike to intimidate Finland and Sweden.

The second part of the FOI report focuses on the European forces and their capabilities. It lists the Finnish combat readiness in the following table:

The amount of forces available at short notice has increased during the past five years. I have covered the changes in the Finnish force structure and training in my previous articles:

The latest round of local defense exercises was held in the middle of the Covid19 pandemic. The Defense Forces have had strict and very successful measures in place to combat the spread of the infection. Conscript units have been compartmentalized into smaller units with rotating shifts in the woods, on barracks and on vacation.


The five local defense exercises that were held in the winter of 2021 were:

Lapland and North Ostrobothnia 2021

Exercise time:  26.2.-5.3.2021

Exercise area: North Ostrobothnia, Lapland (Oulu, Rovaniemi, Sodankylä, Ivalo)

Number of troops: c. 1,200 personnel

Number of vehicles: c. 250 vehicles

Participating authorities: Police, Finnish Border Guard, Rescue Department, North Ostrobothnia Hospital District, Kainuu Social Welfare and Health District, North Finland Regional State Administrative Agency, Lapland Regional State Administrative Agency, Customs, Judiciary, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and Environment


Kehä 2021

Exercise time: 6.-11.3.2021

Exercise area: Capital city area; Helsinki and East Uusimaa, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport

Number of troops: c. 750 personnel

Number of vehicles: c. 150 vehicles

Participating authorities: East Uusimaa Police, Helsinki Rescue Department, Finnish Border Guard


Salo 2021

Exercise time: 8-12.3.2021

Exercise area: Säkylä, Salo, Oripää, Kemiönsaari/Säkylä Garrison, Oripää Airfield and Kiikala Airfield

Number of troops: c. 700 personnel

Participating authorities: Southwest Finland Police, Southwest Finland Rescue Department, West Finland Cost Guard District, (Southwest Finland Hospital District)


Pirkanmaa 2021

Exercise time: 8. - 12.3.2021

Exercise area: Pirkanmaa / Kanta-Häme

Number of troops: c. 820 personnel

Number of vehicles and of armoured vehicles: tens of vehicles

Participating authorities: Police, Rescue Department, Tampere City


Kymi 2021

Exercise time: 8.-11.3.2021

Exercise area: Region of Kouvola

Number of troops: c. 1,000 personnel


All these exercises focus on co-operation between authorities and rapid reaction to localized threats. So, let us take a closer look at one of them, the Kymi 2021 hosted by the Karelian Brigade in Kouvola.

The exercise begun with the mobilization of the readiness battalion of the Karelian Brigade and the reservists of the local defense units based in the Kymenlaakso region. These units then linked up with local police and Border Guard forces to establish a common situational awareness. After gearing up the units deployed into the region, taking control of the pre-planned control points. Units then used the local resources to maintain their combat readiness.


a CV9030 Commander of the Readiness battalion 

On the second phase of the exercise the Army forces responded to an enemy military incursion into Finnish territory, that was detected and delayed by the Border Guard forces. The mechanized readiness battalion then linked up with the Border Guards and conducted a counterattack in order to destroy or push pack the hostile forces.

The force structure of the Finnish readiness and local units, when combined with the other authorities and Special Forces enables a very wide range of options to deal with threats that may emerge. Units can be used as disaster relief or security forces or to conduct high intensity offensive operations backed by organic armor and heavy artillery.

The Finnish Air Force provided support for the troops with their F/A-18C/D Hornets


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