"We have collaborated internationally with Finnish troops for a long time, in for example Afghanistan. However, in terms of increased national defence cooperation between the two countries, we have just left the starting blocks," says Lieutenant-Colonel Anders Landewall, head of the 191 mechanised battalion.
In recent years, the security situation in the area around the Nordic Countries has deteriorated significantly. On account of this, the Swedish Armed Forces have received clear guidance on a political level to prioritise the active Nordic cooperation within the framework of the Nordic Defence Cooperation, Nordefco, with the aim of strengthening the countries' national defence and to find joint solutions and synergies for the future.
At the present time, it is the deepening cooperation with Finland that has the highest priority within the Swedish Armed Forces and it is also why the soldiers and officers of the Jaeger Brigade are now on Boden's southern firing range to practice with and against an armoured infantry company from the Norrbotten Regiment.
Cooperation since the autumn 2014
The strengthened cooperation started with talks with the Finnish units, Kainuu brigade in Kajaani and the Jaeger Brigade in Sodankylä during the autumn of 2014. At the beginning of 2015 the heads of the regiments met their colleagues in Finland to draw up guidelines for continued cooperation. In May 2015 the units from the armoured battalion were in Sodankylä to practice with the Finnish Jaeger Brigade and in December a new unit crossed the border to participate in even more joint exercises.
"We started on a small scale, but more than likely we will participate in more joint exercises in the future," says Anders Landewall.
Satisfied soldiers and officers
The Finnish soldiers arrived in Boden on the Monday. The Swedish armoured infantry units attacked during Tuesday and Wednesday and the Finnish Robot Platoons delayed the attack. However, on Thursday both nations stood on the same side when the Finnish units supported the Swedish unit's attack.
"Up until now the exercises have been extremely good, in many ways. Among others it is now a new denser terrain than we are used to. We cannot always get a clear shot of our robots, which means we have to be slightly more creative and use our other weapons systems, for example, light anti-tank weapons and mines to a greater extent. We do not have any combat vehicles in the north of Finland, so it is perfect for us to come here are train," says the Finnish captain Juha Tassinen.
Even the soldiers on both sides were satisfied.
"A new challenge and first rate exercises for both sides. We've had the opportunity to train against the Finnish robot groups and they have had the chance to train against our combat vehicles, says Essie Månsson, gunner on combat vehicle 90.
"A great exercise where we have the chance to train against extremely modern combat vehicles in terrain where you can easily hide to attack from the side or from behind. This is the first time we have met so many combat vehicles at the same time, which makes the exercises very realistic, adds sergeant Ville Tolvonen, who has served in the Finnish Army for about a year.
When asked about what he experienced as the biggest challenge, he answered:
"To stay hidden from the combat vehicles' modern system for target discovery."
And despite the IRV system (Infrared Vision) in the combat vehicles, which is used to find targets at night or with reduced visibility, the Finnish soldiers performed very well.
"Even though it is very difficult to hide the soldiers' heat signatures from the combat vehicles' advanced thermal systems, the Swedish forces found it difficult to find the Finnish robot groups. Which is a very good testimonial," says Anders Landewall.