Originally, the first steel was to have been cut during 2022, but this is now slated for the fall of 2023. An interesting detail is that the dimensions of the vessel has grown somewhat during the final design stages, with the length overall now set at 117 meters as opposed to the earlier announced 114 meters, with the shape and width of the hull also undergoing some minor changes. The crew has also been set at 73, compared to the earlier quoted “approximately 70”. The earlier announced total power of the combined diesel-electric and gas turbine propulsion system of approximately 30 MW has also been specified at 29 MW, and a 14-day endurance has been confirmed for the 4,300 ton vessels.
The changes to the hull are related to hydrodynamic refinements, as well as ensuring room for growth during the planned service life of the vessels which stretches into the 2060’s. As mentioned, the production of the first vessel is set to kick-off this year, with late October-early November being the preliminary date. The sea trials of the first vessel will then take place in 2026, and the following three vessels will enter production at staggered intervals following the first one, meaning that all four will have entered service by the end of 2029.
The goal of the class is to replaced four light fast attack craft of the Rauma-class built in the early 90’s, as well as three minelayers including the former flagship FNS Pohjanmaa which was retired eight years ago. The decision to opt for a smaller number of larger vessels stems from changes to the operational environment and doctrine of the Finnish Navy, which have only further grown in importance following Finland’s application for NATO-membership last spring. In addition to defensive mining and sea denial close to own shores, missions requiring better endurance and sea-keeping year-round in the challenging climate of the Baltic Sea have now grown in importance.
These include protection of merchant shipping and sea-based infrastructure, which are vital for Finland in both peace and wartime. The operating environment has placed a set of rather unique requirements for the designers, including a shallow draft of just 5 meters to allow for operations in the Finnish archipelago as well as ice-reinforcements to allow for operations during the Finnish winter.
A notable detail is that despite these minor changes to the hull the design and acquisition of all equipment – the process of which is described as “almost done” – seems to have been finalised without Finland’s NATO-application having caused redesigns or required changes to the specifications, the kind of which Sweden has recently announced for their upcoming new surface combatants, Ytstridsfartyg Ny, following Sweden’s NATO-application.