An initial small delay due to protracted contract negotiations was first announced in June 2019 but the program was back on track by mid-august of the same year.
In a new development, the Squadron 2020 Program Director, Major General Lauri Puranen, wrote on the Finnish Armed Forces official blog earlier this week:
“It has now been confirmed by the shipyard that the ship’s design work needs extra time. The estimate of the design delay notified by the yard to the customer is 6-12 months”
“We have always known that building the Pohjanmaa-class is a challenging project. The design work of any warship is a very demanding entity, especially when it is done from a clean sheet and involves several actors. In Finnish conditions, a high-performance warship that meets the requirements of future naval defense means a combination of efficient, partially tailored weapon and sensor and command systems, agility and combat resistance, and of course the ability to operate in year-round conditions”, he added.
The consequences for the construction and commissioning of the vessels are currently being investigated. While all parties will remain committed to managing schedule risks and the repercussions of the delay, the delay is also likely to shift to the completion and deployment schedule.
However, efforts will continue to be made to adhere strictly to the original deployment schedule so that the new squadron will be completed in 2028, the blog says. Of course, the Corona pandemic has brought its own challenges to all aspects of life and society and is certainly one of the factors behind the delay, it adds.
Precisely because of the challenge of the project, a lot of time was set aside for the design of the ship – more than two years. According to the original schedule, shipbuilding was scheduled to begin within 2022. In addition to the design work, during the last couple of years, numerous procurements have been prepared for the class of ships and implemented well in advance due to the long delivery times they require.
In addition to the previously decided procurement of a combat system and surface and anti-aircraft missiles, the German company RENK AG will supply ship’s gear units and power propulsion systems, General Electric (USA) will supply gas turbines and diesel generators will be supplied by MAN Energy Solutions SE (Germany). The Finnish company Koja Marine supplies air conditioning to the ship class and Furuno Finland Oy is responsible for the implementation of the Pohjanmaa-class navigation system.
For the defense administration, however, things appear to be such that a pandemic alone will not explain the prolongation of the planning phase. “We have repeatedly expressed our concern about the delay that has arisen. The design of a modern and technically advanced warship from large lines to details is undeniably a demanding entity, but from the customer’s perspective, the design delay should have been avoided with wider design shoulders“, Puranen comments.
From the point of view of the customer, the Finnish Defense Forces, the situation will become more difficult if the delay begins to affect the Navy’s plans to use and dispose of the fleet’s departing ships.
The Hämeenmaa-class and the Rauma-class are already at the end of their service life and their service life cannot be extended indefinitely. Extending service life is also a cost issue. Although the delay came already in the negotiation phase of the agreements, the current delay is manageable from a defense perspective, and even there is still some room for maneuver.
“From now on, it is absolutely vital that there is no further delay and that it can even be caught up. Close and transparent co-operation between the Defense Administration and the RMC and adherence to the agreed agreement will be key to achieving this goal. It is in the interests of all those involved in the project and, more broadly, national defense“, Puranen concludes.
About Pohjanmaa-Class Corvette
The Pohjanmaa-class corvettes (Squadron 2020 program) will be constructed in Finland. They will be multi role surface combatants with ice breaking capabilities. The construction contract (worth 647.6 million Euros) was awarded to Finnish shipbuilder Rauma Marine Constructions in September 2019. The construction of the four corvettes was set to start in 2022 and end in 2025. Sea trials are expected to begin in 2024. Full operational status of the entire Pohjanmaa-class with the Finnish Navy is expected to be achieved by 2028.
Saab was selected in September 2019 to provide and integrate the combat system and sensors of the corvettes. The vessels will be equipped with ESSM surface to air missiles, Gabriel V anti-ship missiles and Torpedo 47 torpedoes. Kongsberg will equip the vessels with its SS2030 and SD9500 sonars. Patria will supply the Sonac DTS variable depth sonar.
Saab will provide a wide range of systems and solutions for the Pohjanmaa corvettes, including:
- Trackfire Remote Weapon Station
- TactiCall integrated communication system
- Saab Lightweight Integrated Mast (SLIM)
- Sea Giraffe 4A Fixed Face radar
- Sea Giraffe 1X radar
- Saab’s new lightweight torpedo
- Ceros 200 radar and electro-optical director
- Saab Naval Laser Warning System
Together with the existing four Hamina-class missile boats that are currently being modernized, the four new corvettes will form the backbone of the Finnish Navy from the mid-2020s. They will replace seven older vessels that have been or are due to be decommissioned: the single Pohjanmaa and two Hämeenmaa-class minelayers as wll as four Rauma-class missile boats.
Pohjanmaa-class Corvette main characteristics
Length: 114 m (374 ft)
Beam: 16 m (52 ft)
Displacement: 3,900 tonnes (3,800 long tons; 4,300 short tons)
Crew: 70 to 120 sailors