The Freezing Winds 22 exercise takes place in the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea. It features a total of 23 surface vessels as well as a sizeable number of marine, aviation, and ground assets. In total around 5,000 personnel are involved in total. Notable is the significant presence of foreign vessels and units, including three vessels out of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 – SNMG1 (Dutch, Norwegian, and Danish) as well as three vessels out of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One – SNMCMG1 (Dutch and German), a US Navy destroyer, German minehunter FGS Dillingen, French Navy destroyer Chevalier Paul and minehunter Croix du Sud, as well as three Swedish corvettes.
US participation also includes the 2nd Marine Logistics Detachment and a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. In addition, all Finnish service branches as well as several other authorities are participating. This includes Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet multirole fighters and Hawk trainers, NH90 helicopters of the Army aviation, and Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft of the Finnish Border Guards.
Freezing Winds 22 is still a traditional exercise in that it focuses on the core tasks of the Finnish Navy, including surveillance and protection of Finnish waters, securing sea lines of communication, and repelling maritime attacks. However, for the relatively small Finnish Navy not operating any surface combatant larger than the 250 ton Hamina-class fast-attack craft, the addition of such a significant foreign contribution is in many ways a game-changer.
“Leadership is central, as under command there are multinational formations as well as new capabilities. We need to approach learning how to capitalize on these with a completely new attitude, and we need to be able to connect these as a part of the greater whole,” rear admiral Jori Harju explained in a comment to Naval News.
“The main purpose of the exercise is still very much along the lines of conducting maritime operations to support our statutory tasks. To this we are now adding the capabilities of partners and participating countries in support of the activities of the Finnish Navy.”
Rear Admiral Jori Harju, Commander of the Finnish Navy
Finland is no stranger to participating in or hosting international exercises, including the long-running BALTOPS series of exercises. However, this year has seen a significant increase in international participation in Finnish exercises for all three branches of the Finnish Defence Forces. This is part of a reaction to changes to the national security environment following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which also led to Finland applying for NATO membership.
The addition of international participants in most Finnish exercises is seen as both increasing interoperability in anticipation of Finland formally becoming a NATO member as well as increasing deterrence through these acting as a tripwire force. For the Navy, the USMC 2nd Marine Logistics Detachment has already spent two months in Finland training combat support operations in the special conditions of the Finnish coast in cooperation with the Nyland brigade, the Finnish marine brigade.