Hamina class vessels are undergoing their €220 million mid-life upgrade cycle, will allow the Finnish Navy to deploy completely new weapons and torpedoes. However, this is not the only improvement - conscripts will receive power sockets, for example, to make their mobile phone more comfortable to download, for example.
The Hamina-class Tornio vessel looks like a coyote at Teijo Shipyard in Salo. The ship is standing on the spot for the second month. The surface paint has been sand-blasted away, and so the surrounding snow drifts are covered with sand dust.
"We're making the ship like a blank billboard, everything except the sea-frame goes into exchange," says the chief of the upgrade project, commanding officer Markus Mildh.
Mildh's statement is even more appropriate inside the vessel. It smells of paint, and a circular sound hits the ears. The furniture has been largely removed, and there is only a massive row of hanging wires on the bridge.
Weapon systems will be completely renewed: there is a brand-new light torpedo and a new weapon will be to select in the surface missile 2020 project. The manually-operated heavy machine guns are replaced by a remote-control weapon system.
The new facilities make the ship somewhat more cramped than before. More versatile hardware is promising, on the one hand, as today's computers take up less space. In the design, for example, electronic 3D modeling software was used.
“Accommodation facilities remain the most unchanged. Now, for all the conscripts, there is a cabinet in the hallway, in addition to the walls of the cabins there are power sockets and a washing machine that in the shower room,” says the Chief of Construction Inspectorate, Lieutenant Colonel Malik Abdeen.
At sea, the ship is manned by twenty regular crew members and 6-8 conscripts at a time. Others may also live on board at times when they are in a port. Comfort will be enhanced by enabling TV and Internet connections on board, but will only be used under operational security conditions.
The new armament is a remarkable improvement to naval capability. Torpedoes multiply the range of submarine protection, so vital maritime connections can be better protected. The selected torpedo is the Swedish brand-new Saab Torpedo 47, which is currently being supplied to the Swedish Navy. The Swedish navy trains to use torpedoes to Finland, and at that stage also borrows missiles.
“Co-operation with Sweden has a significant role to play, and the more we cooperate on material, the more fruitful it is. However, we competed with all potential suppliers, , we mapped the pros and cons, and the best won,” Abdeen said.
One of the reasons for choosing the Saab system is that it was designed for the unique, varied and low surface contours of the Baltic Sea.
On the surface, impacts will be improved by the combat management system that will soon be selected in the IPP 2020 project. It replaces the current Marine Control 85 system, and will significantly increase its performance. The missiles will be more versatile, for example, they will be able to affect not only naval targets but also those ob land.
The protection of the neighboring area has been based on formerly machine-controlled machine guns, which means that one operator per weapon is required. The new remote-control system monitors the target and automatically determines the firing parameters, and shows on the screen the information produced by the other sensors as well. The weather, the amount of light and the skill of the shooter will no longer affect the result, while only one operator is needed to fight, instead of the previous one operator and two shooters.
The sensor system is being upgraded, so ships are able to produce better objective information more independently. The submerged snapshot, however, diversifies the new echoes.
The ships arrived in the Navy at the beginning of the 21st century, and now a mid-term upgrade is in progress so they will remain effective until 2035. The class consists of four ships called Hamina, Tornio, Hanko and Pori; Tornio is the first to upgrade. The last vessel is scheduled to be upgraded in 2021.
“We will not take a stand on what happens to ships after the 2030s. Over the next fifteen years, we will ensure that the hull, machinery and systems are in place. Then, we look at how the whips can be used,” Mildh says.
According to the Ministry of Defense, the total price of renovation is approximately EUR 223 million, and some 300 people are employed on the project.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The upgrade will also add Harpoon Block II+ surface-launched anti-ship missiles, according to a Feb. 05 Congressional notification by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency.)