Martin Manaranche story with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur
The new tender published on February 4 is for the acquisition of “a new minesweeping capability for the Finnish Navy” including minesweeping vessels with autonomous and remote controlled features, and new integrated influence sweep systems.
FDFLOGCOM emphasizes that systems should be capable to sweep all relevant signatures (e.g. acoustic, magnetic, electric), and several other points:
“Critical requirements for the new minesweeping vessels:
– autonomous and remotely controlled features
– ability to sweep contact mines with mechanical sweeping gear (GFE)
– features enough deck space for mechanical sweep operations (GFE)
– is equipped with galley, accommodation and sanitary facilities
– maximum length of approximately 24 m“
Contacted by Naval News for comments, renowned Finnish Blogger Corporal Frisk, an expert in Finnish and Baltic Region military matters explained that:
“Finland has always placed a high priority on mine warfare, both offensive and defensive, as the Finnish waters are shallow and the archipelago create natural choke points in many locations”.
According to the official document, the estimated value of the program seems to be quite low: Between €18 and €20 million and an additional cost of €15 million for ‘options’, which will be given later to selected companies. The “low” amount can be explained by a couple of factors:
“The tendering with half the sum going to the yard and half being reserved for other companies mirror the way the upcoming Pohjanmaa-class corvettes were bought, with the yard (Rauma Maritime Construction) getting an order for roughly half the total sum, and Saab getting the other half for their role as integrator and supplier of the combat systems.
I’d say the low price isn’t too surprising, considering the Finnish mine countermeasure force does feature a kind of high/low-split with the Kataanpää being the high end-vessels and the Kiiski- and Kuha-classes providing a rather basic capability but more hulls. If they are to be replaced it would be natural to have a cheap relatively basic platform, especially as the trend in mine countermeasures is to do more with remote systems operating out of vessels that feature relatively little specialization. Once coupled with the fact that the contract for the corvettes was split, the price seems low but reasonable in my opinion.
The tender document is rather clear with the fact that the mechanical sweeping will be handled simply by transferring the hardware from the current sweepers, both in the text and then listing it as Government Furbished Equipment in point II.1.5″.
Current Finnish Navy MCM vessels
The Finnish Navy (Merivoimat) currently owns a fleet of 13 MCM vessels of three different classes – all beloging to the 4th Minecounter Squadron. Kiiski-class (6 vessels) and Kuha-class (4 vessels) are the oldest ones. They were built in the 1970s and modernized in the 1990s. Those are very light vessels with a displacement of 20 tonnes and 150 tonnes respectively.
Corporal Frisk told Naval News that one of the Kuha-class (no. 26) and five of the smaller Kiiski-class are manned by Raivaajaosasto Sääski (Sweeping unit Osprey), a volunteer unit of reservists:
The most recent mine hunters are known as the Katanpää-class meant to replace the Kuha-class. The class includes three multipurpose mine countermeasure vessels (MCMV) commissionned between 2012 and 2016.
Displacement: 680 tonnes
Length: 52.5 meters
Beam: 9.9 meters
Draught: 3.2 meters
The ships are fitted with two autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) including HUGIN manufactured by Kongsberg able to collect topographic information and can be used to detect and classify targets, as well as a Remus 100 from Huntington Ingalls Industries. They also operate two remotely operated vehicles (ROV) – a Double Eagle built by Saab and a Sea Fox made by Atlas Elektronik – to identify and destroy naval mines. The class is equipped with multiple hull-mounted sensors such as multibeam echosounder, a TOPAS, and Klein 5500 towed side-scanning sonars.
For self-defence, each vessel can count on a Bofors 40 mm L/70 gun and depth charges for ASW.