Opening speech by Minister of Defence Niinistö at the Nordic Defence Industry Seminar
Ladies and Gentlemen, Representatives of Industry, Distinguished Guests,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the Nordic Defence Industry Seminar. This is the second time this seminar is being held in Finland. Let me also warmly welcome our special guests and keynote speakers, Mr Egdar Fossheim from Norway, Mr Matthew Warren from the United States and Assistant Secretary General, Mr Patrick Auroy from NATO. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to attend this important event.
The theme of our seminar, transatlantic link, is very topical. I believe I speak on behalf of all the Nordic nations when I say that the United States is a very important partner for all of us. From the industrial side, all Nordic nations have a long history of good cooperation with the United States. Operational requirements, increasing costs and strained defence budgets require us to work together. Networking is the key element and this is what we are doing here at this seminar as well.
From the Finnish side, the key objective of our international defence materiel cooperation is to provide for cost-effective materiel acquisitions and to safeguard our military security of supply. Through cooperation, it is possible to avoid overlapping work and gain synergies, which result in technological and financial benefits. International materiel cooperation covers the entire life cycle of materiel.
Since 1994, Finland has conducted defence policy related cooperation with NATO within the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme. The cooperation benefits Finland greatly in terms of developing defence capability, the capabilities of the Defence Forces, international compatibility and knowhow. Currently Finland is part of NATO´s Enhanced Opportunities Programme (EOP) and we plan to utilize this framework to the maximum. Close cooperation with NATO is key also for our industrial development.
I also want to mention NATO Support and Procurement Agency, NSPA − also represented at the Seminar. Our cooperation with NSPA has increased lately and we are currently studying other possibilities to enhance our cooperation. We have been very pleased with cooperation with NSPA, and in some cases, like the Strategic Airlift Capability, it is clearly the best forum for acquiring such a capability.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Changes during recent years have created an entirely new environment for the defence industries of our countries. National defence budgets have tended to decrease and competition has become more intense and international. Very few companies, if any, will be able to rely only on their domestic markets in the coming years.
Alongside with the traditional defence industry, the new security markets within homeland defence are growing and providing new opportunities. International markets and competitions have become increasingly important for companies.
For Finnish defence materiel policy, we are facing interesting times.
I believe there are participants in this room who are interested in our two major upcoming procurements, so I will use this opportunity to inform you where we are with them:
Acting upon my mandate, the Finnish Defence Forces have launched two major programs, the Squadron 2020 and the HX fighter program. The aim of Squadron 2020 is to replace the capabilities of seven combat vessels in the Finnish Navy with four surface combatants. Respectively, the HX program aims at replacing the capabilities of the Finnish Air Force F-18’s with multi-role fighters.
Both of these programs are of strategic importance. The procurements are not carried out for the Navy or the Air Force alone. Instead, these programs affect and enhance the entire Finnish defence system.
Both programs also require funding outside the current defence budget framework. Funding decisions will eventually be taken by the parliament.
Regarding Squadron 2020, the program is well under way. Through a Request for Information, we have received answers from some 50 suppliers. Following a careful analysis, a Request for Quotation will be sent out by the end of the year. Construction of the vessels is scheduled to start in 2019.
Concerning our fighter program, the timeline is slightly different as the current fleet of F-18’s will phase out from 2025 onward. A Request for Information has just been submitted and answers are expected in late fall. After call for tenders, the actual procurement decision will be taken in the early 2020s.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I will hand over the stage to the seminar and to our key note speakers, let me also mention a very topical issue. Securing the Finnish Defence Technological and Industrial Base, a Government Resolution outlining the critical defence capabilities and key technologies, was released just over a month ago.
This important decision by the Finnish Government provides up-to-date information on what we consider as being critical to our national defence. With this Resolution we join the growing group of countries that have recently taken a fresh look at their key strategic areas, often in the form of Defence Industrial Strategy or similar document. From our Nordic partners we have acknowledged the strategies by Denmark and very recently, also by Norway.
We believe that providing open, accurate and up to date information on our priorities provides valuable information to our partners, be they other governments, industrial players or other stakeholders.
It is a well-known fact that Finland places particular importance on military security of supply. As a provider, the Finnish Defence Industry plays a big part.
The Government Resolution highlights the key role that the Finnish Defence Industry has in our comprehensive defence solution. It is in many ways integrated into the defence system and thus, having a long term cooperation with the industry is of great importance to us.
We see a viable and competitive industry as a fundamental element of credible national defence. Local industry is of great importance to the Finnish Defence Forces. This seminar has been prepared in close contact with Industry and we hope that you, the representatives of Nordic Defence Industry companies, find the programme interesting and useful. I hope you will use this seminar to establish contacts with government representatives as well as with other companies.
I have to say that my experiences with Finnish and Nordic Defence Industry companies are very good. Alone the Finnish industry’s products are well known all over the world and used by over 30 national armed forces. In Finland, we have a lot of high level know-how also among dual-use products.
Finnish defence industry has excellent know-how in different sensor solutions and information systems as well as military solutions that have to do with mobility, combat striking force and logistics. Many Finnish and Nordic companies are global players. I hope you take time to get to know some of them at the exhibition area.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention, and have a fruitful seminar!