Research is important to the Finnish Defence Forces in a number of ways, since 30-40 year investments are concerned.
– We use research to forecast the future and direct investments towards the right targets. A priority for us is making the right investments at the right time, says Research Director, Colonel Jyri Kosola of the Finnish Defence Forces.
– Another aim is to build system capabilities correctly, so that we can manage development-
related risks. Thirdly, we need to prepare for a rainy day, in the form of a bio-threat or system jamming, for example. We need to understand how to get the most out of our systems and become familiar with their vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
More accurate purchases
– We also need to be able to procure. Investments can take years to prepare. We need
to know how systems actually behave, since we cannot decide on the basis of sales pitches, comments Research Director, Colonel Olli Klemola of the Finnish Defence Research Agency.
– Procurements involve issues which product manufacturers do not necessarily understand, continues Kosola, referring to a confrontation where the enemy tries to wrong foot the Defence Forces via its systems.
– We want to do some research, such as encryption algorithms, ourselves. In addition, electronic warfare involves issues which states are reluctant to sell to others; you have to do these yourself too, says Kosola.
Kosola says that Finland wants to be at the forefront of areas such as ultra-precise radar sensor technology.
– Foreign defence companies are not familiar with Finland’s conditions and operating environment, and therefore research is needed. For example, a tank camouflage net needs to blend in with the Finnish environment, for which reason we need to understand all natural background signatures, says Klemola.
The Defence Forces restructured their research organisation in 2014. Their largest single unit is the Defence Forces Research Agency, which has sub-units in Ylöjärvi, Riihimäki and Tuusula.
There are around 200 staff, a quarter of whom are soldiers, while the rest are civilian personnel. In addition, each of the three branches of the Defence Forces – the army, navy and air force – has its own research unit. Military sciences research is centralised in the National Defence University.
Research related to technology, warfare and people was combined during the restructuring. The key idea was to examine warfare as a whole.
– The Defence Forces can now examine performance-related issues holistically and seek cost-effective solutions. In practice, this could mean that training and a change of tactics are needed, rather than new technology on every occasion, says Klemola.
– We are strongly networked with society: the scientific community, research institutes and industry. This is where we differ markedly from Sweden, for example, where the FOI research institute does many of the things which VTT does for us, Kosola explains.
– VTT is our key research partner. Our current partnership and framework agreement has been in place since 2009. We intend to deepen it so that projects can get under way based on more agile processes in ‘home-order’ style.
Cooperation with VTT was given a boost this year when the tasks and composition of the Defence Forces’ Technology Board were adjusted to better meet the needs of the Defence Forces.
Three hulls for the price of two
Research improves the cost-effectiveness of operations.
– By using VTT’s simulation model, we have succeeded in lowering purchase prices. A major benefit is gained when we receive three ship hulls for the price of two for use by the navy, says Kosola.
From the perspective of the Finnish Defence Forces, VTT’s key expertise lies in knowledge of society’s resilience, enhancing and taking account of human capabilities, and various technologies, particularly cyber, radio frequency, communications and materials technologies.
– Around 75 years ago, cooperation began with the development of our national radar expertise and serving basic public needs. This has expanded hugely over the decades. Radar is still a key area of research. In 2014, the Defence Forces disengaged from certain research tasks. For these, we now rely on the expertise of our partners when necessary, says Kosola.
– We have a number of projects under way with VTT, such as the technical measurement of wear and damage to the canopy and perspex on fighters. The list is long and includes a very large number of different types of solutions.
Research cooperation becoming international
In addition to VTT, the Finnish Defence Forces’ research partners include Aalto University, Tampere University of Technology, the University of Oulu, Lappeenranta University of Technology and the University of Turku. The Defence Forces are also involved in European research networks within the ERA (European Research Area).
– NATO’s Science and Technology Organization, the STO, recently became fully open to Finland. Through the Enhanced Opportunities Partnership (EOP), interesting research activities are now opening up for Finland. Also our research partners can deepen their cooperation through their new status. Says Klemola.
– It’s been great to work alongside VTT’s professional and inspiring employees. Their expertise and enthusiasm shows in the quality of their research, states Kosola.
He is also delighted with the confidential collaboration arising from long-term research projects.
– We can openly discuss problems together.
This cooperation was given a boost this year when the tasks and composition of the Defence Forces’ Technology Board were adjusted to better meet the needs of the Defence Forces. Key organisations are now involved in discussing strategic research and technology policies: membership includes representatives of the defence sector via the Association of Finnish Defence and Aerospace Industries (PIA), in addition to the Finnish Defence Forces, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. VTT is the only company to represent itself directly, with President & CEO Antti Vasara serving as a member of the Council.
– It has taken years of trust to get our collaboration to this stage, says Kosola.
Photos: Miika Kainu