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Countering Hybrid War 2019

"Unidentified troops have taken over several government buildings, an harbor and airports across Finland. Finnish army has alerted it’s available conscripts, mobilized the reserve local battalions and sent them to support police and border guard units engaging the hostile forces. The local authorities have began transitioning into a crisis mode."

That's how my March 11, 2017 article "Countering the Hybrid War - The Finnish Way" begun.

Police and Army during a local defense exercise

It has now been two years since that article. So has the Finnish approach of comprehensive security, combined with conscript based military, evolved during the past two years?

From the military perspective the framework laid before has remained the same. The proposed changes in the legislation have mostly been passed and they include:
- Comprehensive intelligence laws that cover both military and civilian intelligence
- Laws regarding the use of force against unmarked military formations
- Laws that allow the military to use force to protect equipment and personnel in peace time
- Laws that allow countering drones
- Law limiting dual-citizens access to sensitive military positions
- Reform of the voluntary military training
- Law limiting the land purhcases by non ETA-citizens near sensitive sites

Readiness units have been formed in the army brigades since 2017 and their concept has been refined. Getting the conscripts to join the new readiness units has been easy and the training curriculum has proved to be versatile enough to produce highly capable troops that can conduct combined arms operations in an hours notice.

All of the roughly company sized units have integral indirect fire components and air defense capabilities. The exact order of the battle for these units varies between the brigades and some units ride on CV9030 IFVs, while others have to make do with XA-185 series APCs. 

Some of the army’s older Leopard 2A4 tanks have been distributed to support the readiness units that do not have main battle tank units withing their respective brigades. Those brigades that are designed to train armored battle groups have the latest Leopard 2A6 tanks at their disposal. 

The readiness units receive helicopter operations training and the infantry components can be transported to emerging hotspots with the NH-90 helicopters. The combination of high readiness and the ability to bring artillery and armor to fight within a moments notice is somewhat unmatched capability in Europe.

Comprehensive defense is all about co-operation. But being able to bring in the firepower to win the fight is still the backbone of the Finnish defense.

The second tool in the Finnish Defense forces toolbox against any hybrid operations are the local defense companies and battalions. These reserve formations are manned by highly motivated reservists, that train in their respective regions and specialize in protecting the vital infrastructure and logistics choke points. These units are naturally slower to mobilize than the conscripts living at the barracks, but they have most of their equipment at home and thus can deploy a lot faster than the rest of the reserves.

While the first two pieces of the hybrid counter puzzle are based on the reserve system, Finland does also have the professionals. The army and navy SOF, while also training conscripts, have fully professional units that are able to deploy very rapidly. These tier 1 units can stand proud in comparison with any special operations units in the world. Additionally the Utti Jaeger Regiment maintains a special forces reserve that, much like the local defense units, is capable of mobilizing rapidly. The Special Force Reserve was recently introduced to the public with this video:

Both the Police and the Border Guard are naturally at the forefront of countering any hostile operations on the Finnish soil. Both maintain highly trained special units, that are capable of fighting as SOF units in limited scenarios and as most of the police officers are military trained and equipped with HK (or MKE copies) Mp-5s and in the future CZ Scorpion EVO sub machine guns, they can provide valuable contributions in even the most demanding missions.

The key to success in any military operation is the co-operation between the different units and that is even more important when discussing countering any hybrid operations on your own soil. In the Finnish comprehensive security model, the co-operation happens at every level. The different ministry’s and corporations plan their responses to crisis scenarios in advance. The local municipalities, government offices and police departments plan together both how to identify hybrid operations that aren’t as overt as the little green men and how to prepare for even the worst possibilities ranging from an special operations attack to an all out war with heavy weaponry being used within the population centers.

The comprehensive security is an every day process that runs on all levels of the society. The plans and preparations are regularly rehearsed by the relevant authorities and in larger joint exercises. Many of the training exercises are invisible to the casual observer as they happen within the confines of the government offices and city halls.

Army, Police, Border Guard, harbor employees and local authorities having a briefing during the Kymi19 exercise.

The most visible part of the hybrid response training are the local defense exercises. They are held twice a year, with multiple regions exercising at the same time. The 2019 fall local defense exercises aka. PAPU:s were held in 8 out of the 19 regions of Finland. By now, all of the regions have participated in at least one of the exercises, with the notable exception of Åland as its demilitarized, based on antiquated treaties. Over 4100 people took part in the latest round of exercises. 

The main objectives of the local defense exercises are:
- Test and train the sharing of common situational awareness between different organizations
- Training to lead multi-agency operations.
- Training local defense units to secure the key objectives in their areas of operations
- Training to fight in the local area, especially countering hostile special forces and airborne/marine landings.

Here is a superb video by the  Finnish Defence Forces Combat Camera Team about the Kehä19 exercise that happened around the capital region. The Guard Jaegers train to fight from subway tunnels to rooftops.

Securing landing strips and ports to counter enemy troop movements and infiltration attempts are a high priority.

The combination of increased international co-operation, especially with Sweden, UK and USA give the Finnish defense the much needed high end capabilities. On the other hand the local defense exercises and comprehensive security frameworks provide a robust and resilient platform to which the other capabilities can be built.

The Finnish way is naturally in no way finalized and there is still much to improve. While the military response is rehearsed and effective, the political leadership and the processes needed for example to mobilize the reserves remain somewhat opaque, especially with the current administration whose foreign and defense policy stances are still unclear.

The whole society could tap more to the vast resource pool within the reserves. While the local defense units are a good start, the army could easily employ reservists in roles like technical assistance, data analytics, intelligence and in many other, non-combat roles.


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