Air Defense: Finland Flees The Soviets


February 22, 2014: Finland is buying American FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS (MAN-Portable Air-Defense Systems) anti-aircraft missiles to replace the Russian SA-18s they have been using. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, Finland had been systematically replacing its Cold War era Russian weapons with Western ones.

The Stinger entered service in the 1980s and was soon recognized as the top-of-the-line MANPADS. Full system weight (ready-to-fire) is 19 kg (42 pounds). The 10 kg (22 pound) missile has a three kg warhead. Max range is 6,000 meters and the Stinger countermeasures (to anti-missile defenses that deceive the heat seeking guidance system) have been continually improved.

This is not the first American anti-aircraft system Finland has adopted. Back in 2009 Finland bought some of the Norwegian NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System). NASAMS uses the American AMRAMM radar guided air-to-air missiles but fired from a six missile container instead of an aircraft. This ground based AMRAAM weighs 159 kg (350 pounds), has a range of 30 kilometers (it's radar can see out 50-70 kilometers), and can hit targets as high as 21 kilometers (65,000 feet). What makes AMRAMM so effective as a SAM (surface-to-air missile) is the capabilities of its guidance system (which is about two thirds of the $400,000 missile's cost). Testing also revealed that AMRAAM could be used to shoot down cruise missiles. Norway believed that the combat proven AMRAAM used by NASAMS was a good long term choice for air defense because the United States is constantly updating the missile. Norway developed NASAMS in the early 1990s and deployed the first missiles and radars in 1995.  Norway pioneered the use of AMRAAM as a surface-to-air missile and other systems have been developed using AMRAAM. But the Norwegian version is seen as the best of the lot. Spain, Holland, Finland, Chile, and the United States also use NASAMS.

Unlike the Stinger, which is given out to units as rounds of ammo (the storage/firing case is disposable as is the guidance system) NASAMS is used in special units. A NASAMS anti-aircraft battery consists of 12 launcher vehicles (each carrying six missiles), eight radar vehicles, one fire control center, and one tactical control vehicle.





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