Tuesday’s papers: Shopping for fighter planes, special ops in action …
Helsingin Sanomat runs a feature story on Finland’s search for replacements for its aging Hornet jet fighter fleet. Tuesday the Defence Ministry received the first round of material from the various defence contractors that are being considered. The deal is predicted to cost a whopping 7 to 10 billion euros, with twice or even three times this amount to be spent on the new fleet throughout its life cycle.
The preliminary schedule for the acquisition of the fighter planes is as follows: complete the tender process in 2019, sign the contracts in 2021 and deliver the new fleet in 2025. Requests for information were sent to the US, Swedish, French and UK defence departments, who forward the request to the respective contractors. Manufacturers included in this first round of assessment include two US contractors: Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the Swedish Saab, French Dassault and the Eurofighter group, led by the UK, but also including Germany, Italy and Spain.
More than money will change hands
Officially, Finland is looking to invest in the best planes, but in reality, its decision will also shape the security policy of the country for decades to come, the paper writes.
An anonymous government representative said that if the final decision comes down a choice between planes with equal performance, security questions will be the deciding factor. Helsingin Sanomat picks the US as the candidate with the strongest odds. The deal will be Finland’s largest defence acquisition in history, as it would include not only the price of the fighter jets, but also maintenance and training, data systems and weaponry.
The Finnish Parliament is scheduled to make a decision on the Hornet fleet replacement in the spring, as part of its defence policy analysis. The tens-of-billion price tag will be a heavy strain on the 2021-2031 budgets, postponing any real attempts to eliminate state debt far into the future. The paper notes that Defence Minister Jussi Niinist? has stated that the money would not come from the defence ministry’s budget.
Instead, he says the new fleet will be paid for with “a separate appropriation”. When the time comes, the state will likely fund the acquisition by taking on more debt or by selling state property, the paper predicts.
Nail-biting situation at the airport
Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports a thrilling episode at the Helsinki Airport Monday evening. At 8:40 pm, several police units and Finland’s special ops team, known as the Bear group, were called out to the airport to respond to an emergency: an incoming Russian plane had pushed the emergency button as it was making its descent.
Police inspector Patrik Karlsson said that because the emergency alert had been reported, his team needed to prepare for a worst-case scenario, “Either a) something serious had taken place or b) the plane had been hijacked.” The plane was headed to the smaller light aircraft airport in Helsinki’s Malmi district, but was directed to the main Helsinki Airport after the alarm was triggered. The Pskovia Antonov An-26 plane in question has regularly transported cargo and passengers between Finland and St Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport.
Once the plane landed at 9 pm, it was quickly ascertained that the alarm had been accidentally set and the operation was called off. Karlsson wouldn’t speculate how many units had responded to the alarm, but said there were several, and not all of them had time to arrive.
Swedes want cruise passengers to behave
The Tampere-based newspaper Aamulehti features a story on how the Swedish police are clamping down on drunken misbehaviour on overnight cruises from Finland. From now on, 24-hour Cinderella cruises operated by the Finnish-owned Viking Line will have security guards walking the ship, drunken passengers will be sent to their rooms, and liquor will not be available for sale in the tax-free section on weekends.
The Swedish authorities have insisted on the stricter measures after a rash of drunken incidents that have lead to violence and sex crimes. The Viking Cinderella ship is the only ship in the Viking fleet to fly under the Swedish flag, and is therefore subject to Swedish legislation – even when it is sailing in international waters, writes the paper. Viking Line’s Communication Manager Johanna Boijer-Svahnstr?m says her company has responded swiftly to the problem and introduced several new measures that have prevented hostilities.
One major new change that has clearly had an effect is a new age limit of 21. The cruise operator has also stopped selling drinks with double shots of hard liquor at its bars and hired a security management team to patrol the ship. Cameras have also been installed throughout the ship, so everything taking place outside of the cabins can be monitored.
Boijer-Svahnstr?m says that routes connecting Helsinki and Stockholm and Turku and Stockholm are calmer, with far fewer disruptive incidents. The second main cruise operator between Finland and Sweden, the Estonian-owned Tallink, still maintains an 18-year age limit. Tallink’s Communications Director in Finland Marika N?jd says the only trouble on Tallink is the upper secondary student class cruises and the like.
Tallink has also increased the security presence on its ships.
Abortions down to 1970 levels
And the Karjalainen newspaper out of eastern Joensuu runs a story on abortion in Finland, citing recent figures that show that abortion numbers are now lower than at any time since the 1970s. In 2015, the total number of induced abortions was 9,440, amounting to 8.2 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (aged 15-49). The National Institute for Health and Welfare reports that abortions are down significantly among young women under 20.
Numbers were also down in the 20-24 year age group. The institute puts the phenomenon down to better information on and access to prevention. More than nine out of ten women said they terminated their pregnancy for social reasons.
Regional differences were also apparent.
Statistically the most abortions were performed in the ?land Islands (11.6 per 1,000) in 2015, while the least took place in the region of South Savo (5.3).
- ^ feature story (www.hs.fi)
- ^ reports (www.iltasanomat.fi)
- ^ story (www.aamulehti.fi)
- ^ story (www.karjalainen.fi)