Current tensions at Nato’s new border are stirring developments within Finland’s ground forces, with an eye toward interoperability with Finland’s new Nato partners.

The Defence Forces Logistics Command announced its plan to procure over 8,000 pairs of ski equipment for the ground forces’ northern troops via the NATO Supply and Procurement Agency (NSPA). The Jaeger Brigade and Kainuu Brigade are set to receive the new ski equipment in the winter season of 2023-2024.

“Finland may be thinking about the permanent stationing of allied personnel and kit in the country.”

James Marques, defence and aerospace analyst at GobalData.

“It’s notable that this is being done through NSPA as it easily allows NATO allies to join the procurement for interoperability”, said James Marques, defence and aerospace analyst at GobalData.

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The NSPA framework agreements allows countries to participate in the procurement process from 2023 to 2025. This move is expected to bring about significant benefits in terms of operational compatibility among the northern troops.

“The US has started shifting some equipment and battalions in the Baltics up north already, and Finland may be thinking about the permanent stationing of allied personnel and kit in the country.”

“These Jaegers regularly trained other militaries including the US before Finland joined Nato”, said Marques

The purchase amounts to nearly €3m in a package for skis and bindings from KSF Sport Oy, and poles from Peltonen Ski Oy, as well as additional spare parts for the ski equipment.

The ski binding can be easily adjusted for the type of footwear in use, and it is fast to put on and take off wearing mittens. Photo by KSF Sport Oy, courtesy of the Finnish Defence Forces.

The ski equipment has been specifically designed to function and carry effectively in the unbroken snow conditions of northern Finland. Troops deployed in more southernly regions, expected to endure less snowfall than the extreme North, will continue to use their current ski equipment.

The new skis are expected to enhance the combatants’ capacity to advance, particularly in deep snow. As time has progressed, the weight of combatants and their equipment has steadily increased, leading to new demands for ski technology. Following advancements in materials and manufacturing techniques, it is now possible to increase the length and width of skis without significantly adding to their weight.

According to Colonel Juhana Skyttä, Infantry Inspector from the Finnish Army Command, the recent dimensioning of the skis has yielded positive results for the load-bearing capacity without compromising their suitability for general use by the troops. The skis can be used while wearing any military footwear, unlike the current ski bindings that mandate the use of winter rubber boots.

The NSPA has recently entered into three-year framework agreements with Finnish companies, with a total value exceeding €11m. The procurement of ski equipment in Finland has resulted in an estimated employment impact of around 20 man years.

Standardisation and modernisation of Finnish and Swedish automatic rifles

This procurement follows quickly upon an announcement made 31 March that saw Finland and Sweden sign a 10 year joint agreement with Sako to replenish both nations’ firearms, with Finland trialling new AR automatic rifles and personal protective equipment to update it’s older AK4 and AK5 service rifles. The framework includes a 21 year optional period until 2053.

It is expected that the standardisation of weaponry between the two nations will allow for greater interoperability.

“The fact that Sweden and Finland will acquire a single weapon system from the same manufacturer will increase the possibilities for cooperation in terms of weapon use, training, development and ammunition procurement”, said Finnish Defence Minister Brigadier General Jonas Lotsne.

“It is also great that national defence training can rely on a domestic product, as this will also improve the security of supply.”

Raimo Karjalainen, Sako Group CEO and Board Member.

More recently, a collaboration agreement was signed on 11 April between the National Defence Training Association of Finland (MPK) and Sako Oy at the latter’s factory in Riihimäki, Finland to provide semi-automatic single-shot 5.56×45 / 223Rem calibre firearms.

The rifles set for delivery are constructed using the AR framework, similar to the recently provided firearms to the Finnish and Swedish Defence Forces.

The MPK will use the consignment to contribute to military readiness and with a firearm training programme of the Finnish Defence Forces, designed for training voluntary reserve members and other participants engaging in voluntary national defence training.

An example of the AR rifles to be supplied for training purposes to the MPK. Photo courtesy of Sako.

“The Finnish Defence Forces and MPK will have the same basic structure of products, which will certainly offer synergy benefits to both parties”, said Raimo Karjalainen, Sako Group CEO and Board Member.

“It is also great that national defence training can rely on a domestic product, as this will also improve the security of supply,” he continued.

The firearms will be delivered in the year 2024 in a €1.6m that includes weapons equipment and spare components.

“In the future, we will be even better positioned to respond to the high demand for training in the use of firearms across the entire nation”, said Antti Lehtisalo, MPK Executive Director.