Government plans to replace Russian anti-aircraft missiles with NATO version
Finland’s air defences are to be upgraded with a missile system used by NATO countries to replace a Russian-built system. A formal decision on the matter is expected early this year.
Helsingin Sanomat has learned that the price tag of the new system could be about EUR 400 million.
The Ministry of Defence did not comment on the information on Thursday, because the project is “in a sensitive phase”. Minister of Defence Jyri Häkämies (Nat. Coalition Party) had no comments.
The state budget has set aside EUR 500 million for the system, which has nevertheless not been mentioned separately in the budget itself.
The aim is to replace the Russian-built Buk or "Gadfly" system with either a Norwegian or a French-Italian system as of 2012. The missiles, initially designed in the Soviet Union and acquired in 1996 as part-payment of outstanding Russian debts, have been deployed in Hyrylä, to defend the Helsinki region against air attack.
Some question the need to replace the existing system, which is only about halfway through its life-cycle. The Russian missiles were delivered only just over a decade ago, and one air defence officer says that they “have no weaknesses”.
One expert said simply that Russian iron needs to be replaced by NATO iron.
“I do not subscribe to that in any way. The Defence Forces do not make acquisitions according to the country of manufacture”, insists Lieutenant Colonel Sampo Eskelinen of the Defence Staff.
According to Eskelinen, when the Buks were acquired, it was known that “something needs to be done with them by 2012". In his view, the feasibility of modernising the Buk missiles is questionable.
The new missiles will not be deployed in Hyrylä, where the military garrison has been closed down.
The Norwegian missile which is under consideration could also be used by the Hornet jet fighters of the Finnish Air Force. It has a range of 25 kilometres, whereas the Buk can reach targets 35 kilometres away. The range of the French-Italian candidate is 100 kilometres.
Experts say that modernised versions of the Buk are available.
Hyrylä has three Buk batteries and 72 missiles. The price in the mid-1990s was about one billion markka, or just under EUR 200 million.
The Norwegian NASAMS missile system was recently showcased in an article in a Finnish military magazine.
The system has an American missile with a Norwegian guidance system. It is in use in Norway, the United States, and Spain.
The French-Italian SAMP/T is in use in France, Italy, Britain, and Saudi Arabia.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Tuusula disappointed by decision to shut down Air Defence Regiment (17.3.2005)
Buk "Gadfly" missile (Wikipedia)