A long-awaited production contract for four new-build corvettes destined for the Finnish Navy was finally approved by the Finnish government on September 19, when the government authorized the Finnish Defense Forces’ Logistics Command to award a contract to local contractor Rauma Marine Constructions (RMC Oy).
— Puolustusministeriö (@DefenceFinland) September 19, 2019
The acquisition falls under Finland’s Squadron 2020 program. Referred to in Finnish as “Laivue 2020” (Flotilla or Squadron 2020), the program calls for a new class of four corvette-size ships to replace the Navy’s existing four Rauma-class light fast attack craft and two Hämeenmaa-class and lone Pohjanmaa-class minelayers. The ships slated for retirement, with the exception of the 1979-vintage Pohjanmaa-class ship, were built in the early 1990s.
Following the issuance of a Request for Information (RFI) on December 18, 2015, responses were paired down to 12 bidders. The Finnish Defense Forces’ Logistics Command then sent out Requests for Tender (RFTs) in December 2016.
In April 2017, RMC was awarded a design contract worth EUR7.5 million by the Logistics Command.
The combat systems supplier and integrator competition that followed involved three companies (Atlas Elektronik GmbH of Germany, Saab of Sweden, and Lockheed Martin Canada), with negotiations conducted throughout 2017. Following submission of preliminary tenders, a second round of negotiations was kick-started in December 2017. A final competitive tendering phase then was launched in 2018 and Saab was shortlisted as the winner in April.
Final contracts involving construction of the ships (RMC), supply and integration of the combat system (Saab), and supply of propellers and propeller shafts (by Finnish company Aker Arctic Technology Oy) are to be officially signed on September 26, 2019, in Turku. The project carries with it an estimated price tag of EUR1.325 billion ($1.46 billion). Construction will run from 2022 through 2025, with Full Operational Capability (FOC) targeted for 2028.
Once brought into service, the new Pohjanmaa-class vessels will conduct year-round operations in the cold conditions of the Baltic Sea. The vessels will be capable of conducting multiple missions, including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, anti-aircraft, and maritime command roles. The new class of ships will have an expected life-cycle of up to 35 years, taking their useful service lives through the end of the 2050s.
Something notable about the Squadron 2020 project, however, is that Finnish naval capacity will continue to shrink even while worries percolate in the Finnish-Swedish security sphere regarding Russian air and sea incursions and aggressive military exercises. A sound argument can be made that these ships will provide more capability, and thus more “bang for the euro,” than those that they will replace.
Yet, with more than 14,000 kilometers (8,700 mi) of Finnish coastline, the lack of numbers cannot be offset by capability. Thus, it will bear watching to see how many ships are ultimately ordered for the Finnish Navy, whether via an option in the original contract or through a broadening of the project requirement.