Finland may upgrade missile defence system

sams-finlandFinland’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is looking at ways to upgrade its existing missile defence system, from the present arsenal of Russian Gadflies to something more compatible with NATO systems. Finland has been using 16 Gadfly surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) since 2006, when it negotiated a trade for the package from Russia.

Finland’s Gadfly system is now about halfway into its expected life cycle, so the MoD is considering switching to NATO-standard SAMs for the future. Whether the move is designed to appease NATO allies or to distance Russian hardware from Finland’s defences can only be speculated. But Finland is apparently looking at the French-Italian SAMP/T system and the Norwegian-Kongsberg NASAMS as future SAMs.

If Finland replaces its SAM system, it will come at a cost of around USD 700 million. According to Defense News, Finland Defence Minister Jyri Hakamies refused to comment on the actual SAMs candidates currently under consideration, since the project is still in its politically “sensitive” phase.

Finland’s 2009 defence budget has not allocated any specific funding for a new SAM system, but Defence Forces Staff spokesman Lt. Col. Sampo Eskelinen said: “The Finnish Air Force hopes that new NATO-based SAMs could be in place by 2012.” The Air Force has already stated that it doesn’t feel modernising the existing Gadfly system is worth the effort, so a totally new SAMs system may likely be coming.