Finland’s Special Operations Forces (FINSOFs) consist of two units, the Utti Jaeger Regiment (Finnish: Utin Jääkärirykmentti, (UTJR) or Special Jaegers) part of the Army, and the Special Operations Detachment (SOD) part of the Naval Reconnaissance Battalion of the Navy’s Coastal Brigade. The UTJR is responsible for Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) activities and Defence Forces’ rotary-wing operations. The SOD is responsible for naval special operations.
Originally these units were independent, with UTJR being Army and SOD being the Navy. However, in 2021, the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces unified the activities of the SOFs under the command of the Army. Starting in 2022, the SOD is now placed under the Army and the Utti Jaeger Regiment (source).
Finnish SOFs are responsible for the statutory tasks of the Defence Forces, both at home and abroad. The Army is responsible for the creation of SOF capabilities and directs their use. Furthermore, the Deputy Chief of the Army Operations Staff holds the title of National Commander for Special Operations.
In this article, we look at both units’ origins, mission, training and operational history.
The history of Finnish SOFs goes back to the four long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) detachments (Finnish: kaukopartio-osastot) and the Detached Battalion 4 (Finnish: Erillinen Pataljoona 4). From 1939 to 1944, the Detached Battalion 4 fought in the Winter War, the Continuation War and the Lapland War. This battalion was founded under the Defence Command Intelligence Division from the already operational long-range reconnaissance patrol detachments (Finnish: kaukopartio-osastot) created during the Provisional Peace (1917).
The Finnish Special Forces were demobilised in November 1944 after the end of the continuation war. The Army didn’t restart special forces training until February 1962 with the establishment of the Jaeger Parachute School (Finnish: Laskuvarjojääkärikoulu, (LjK)) in southeast Finland.
On 1 January 1997, the high command formed the Utti Jaeger Regiment by merging the Parachute Jaeger School, the Military Police School and the Helicopter Wing. Subsequently, the Parachute Jaeger School was reformed into the Special Jaeger Battalion and the Helicopter Wing was expanded into a battalion.
The FINSOFs are a highly trained and specialised military unit whose primary objective is to carry out special operations in support of national security objectives. They are designed to perform various high-risk tasks that go beyond the capabilities of conventional forces. Its functions include the most common tasks of a SOF, that is:
- Unconventional warfare
- Naval warfare
- Direct action
- Special recognition
- Tactical transport
- External military assistance and advisory
- Information gathering
- Response to the threats of hybrid warfare
Finland’s SOF receives rigorous training to carry out high-risk tasks. Their operations are characterised by precision, secrecy, and collaboration with other military and intelligence entities in Finland and NATO.
Originally, the FINSOFs consisted of two independent units, the Army’s Utti Jaeger Regiment and the Navy’s Special Operations Detachment. However, the authorities decided in 2021 that the Finnish SOF would be unified into the Utti Jaeger Regiment. Based on the decision of the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, the activities of the SOF have been consolidated under the Army from the beginning of 2022. With this change, the Naval Special Operations Detachment, which operated under the Navy’s Coastal Brigade, is now under the Army and the Utti Jaeger Regiment.
The Finnish Army is responsible for building SOF capabilities and directing their use. The position of National Special Operations Commander is held by the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.
4.1 Utti Jaeger Regiment
The Utti Jaeger Regiment (UTJR) (Finnish: Utin Jääkärirykmentti or Special Jaegers) is home to the Special Forces Unit and the helicopter operations of the Finnish Defence Forces, along with branches that support these areas. The UTJR headquarters are located in Utti, Kouvola (source; source). The UTJR is one of the eight brigades that make up the Finnish Army Command and is therefore an independent unit.
Following the decision to unify the country’s SOF, the UTJR also includes the Naval Special Operations Detachment (SOD), which was under the Navy’s Coastal Brigade and is now under the Army (source).
In addition to the HQ and the SOD, the regiment comprises the Special Jaeger Battalion, Helicopter Battalion and Support Battalion:
- Special Jaeger Battalion: This unit is responsible for training the Army special forces combatants. The training is provided in close cooperation with the Special Forces Qualification Course of the regular Defence Forces.
- Special Jaeger Company: Tasked with perfecting the skills of Special Jaeger non-commissioned officers (NCOs), maintains special forces readiness and capabilities of the Army.
- Paratrooper Company. Tasked with training conscripts in basic long-range reconnaissance patrol, `sissi´ (sabotage and guerrilla warfare), and urban and air assault operations.
- Helicopter Battalion: the helicopter battalion responsible for all army helicopter operations and training of the Defence Forces. The unit is equipped with 20 NH90 tactical transport helicopters and seven MD 500 light helicopters (source).
- Support Battalion. Tasked with training conscripts in support tasks and handling logistics operations for the regiment.
The UTJR is composed of 460 contract personnel and 220 recruits (source).
4.2 Special Operations Detachment
Originally the Special Operations Detachment (SOD) was part of the Coastal Brigade (Finnish: Rannikkoprikaati, RPR), a brigade of the Finnish Navy responsible for amphibious warfare, naval reconnaissance and special operations of the Finnish Navy. The Coastal Brigade is one of the three main units of the Navy, together with the Coastal Fleet and the Nyland Brigade.
The Coastal Brigade consists of four sections:
- Porkkala Coastal Battalion
- Suomenlinna Coastal Regiment
- Naval Reconnaissance Battalion.
Until 2022, the SOD was part of the Naval Reconnaissance Battalion and was in charge of the Finnish Navy’s special forces. The decision of the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces to unify the Special Operations Forces (SOF) activities led to the SOD being transferred to the Army. The SOD therefore does not operate under the Navy’s Coastal Brigade anymore, but rather it now depends on the Utti Jaeger Regiment. However, the navy remains a key partner for the Finnish SOF. For example, the Coastal Brigade trains combat divers for special operations tasks (source).
The Special Operations Detachment is responsible for training the Naval Special Operation Forces. However, not much information is available about this unit (source; source). The SOD will continue to be based in the Upinniemi garrison in Kirkkonummi (source).
The average candidate joining the special forces has served in the regular Defense Forces for at least seven years and is between 28 and 29 years old. The length of a special operator or combat diver is on average 181 centimetres and the weight is 83 kilograms. The initial selection consists of being able to run 3,180 m (3,480 yards) in a Cooper test and bench press 110 kg (240 lb) (source).
Before accessing the Special Forces Qualification Course, a mandatory requisite to join the FINSOF, candidates must pass a test that is similar to those who want to perform their military service as a paratrooper. This entrance exam to the special forces course is two-part.
First, candidates must be able to perform 48 abdominal movements per minute and jump a speedless long jump of 2.4 meters. The entrance exams also include a backpack run in the indoor hall, where a ten-kilo backpack runs five kilometres on the back. Approximately 50–60 applicants will be selected in the second section.
If the applicant passes the first part, he or she will be able to access the second part of the entrance exams, tailored for the special forces. The second part of the entrance exams lasts for four days. During this, they pass a psychological exam. The answers are sent to the psychologists of the Defense Forces Research Institute for analysis.
After that, there is a ski march lasting at least two days on the foot or skis, depending on the snow situation. During these two days, applicants will go through various crosses to test how applicants can operate under physical exertion and with little sleep.
After this, and from 100 applications, approximately 12 students are chosen for the course.
5.2 Special Forces Qualification Course
To gain access to the unit, candidates must pass the year-long Special Forces Qualification Course. The applicant is required to have completed 347 days of military service (trained as a non-commissioned officer (NCO) or reserve officer) and to be under 25 years of age. In exceptional cases, a 25–30-year-old applicant may also be selected for the course.
All course attendees receive training in communications, engineering, and healthcare.
Subsequently, the candidates receive specialisations such as:
- High-altitude military parachuting
- Military intelligence
- Advanced air control training
Those chosen for professional careers after the basic course serve in the Utti Jaeger Regiment or the Coastal Brigade Naval Reconnaissance Battalion Special Operations Detachment.
5.3 Training with Other Units
The Finnish SOF trains alongside other Army forces, as well as Navy and Air Force units. In addition, they also cooperate closely with other security authorities, such as the police and border guard (source).
5.4 Arctic Training
Finnish SOFs are highly trained for fighting in the Arctic. For example, from 23 December to 16 March 2023, the Utti Jaeger Regiment organised Exercise Talvikotka (in Finnish: winter eagle), north of the Arctic Circle. This exercise aims to improve and exchange winter warfare tactics and techniques with the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Green Berets) (source).
The Finnish SOFs have modern and high-quality equipment. Their weapons and vehicles are mostly European-made and many are nationally-made.
- MP5 (KP 2000) 9x19mm Parabellum.
- RK 95 TP 7.62×39mm.
- FN SCAR L 5.56x45mm.
- Sako TRG 7.62×51mm.
The Finnish SOFs use mostly light vehicles, which allow them high speed and mobility.
- KTM motorcycle. All-terrain motorcycle.
- Polaris Sportsman. All-terrain quad.
- Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Helicopter operations ground support vehicles.
- MR2343. Airfield crash tender.
- RG-32 Scout (74). Mine-resistant 4×4 light armoured vehicles.
- Sisu GTP (31). Mine-resistant ambush-protected armoured personnel carrier (APC). It will replace the RG-32 Scouts.
Through the UTJR Helicopter Battalion, the Finnish SOF is equipped with 20 NH90 tactical transport helicopters and 7 MD 500 light helicopters.
7.0 Notable Operations
The presence of the Finnish SOF tends to be secret and therefore there needs to be more concrete information on their operations. However, the UTJR has been involved in crisis management operations in several places, such as Afghanistan and Kosovo.
In addition, the UTJR is part of the European Union Battlegroups (EU BG) and NATO Response Force (NRF) (source). Finnish SOFs are also part of NATO´s Allied Special Operations Forces Command (SOFCOM) (source).
The recent decision to consolidate both SOF units will have a positive effect on their effectiveness and performance. This change is likely to favour their preparedness to respond to disturbances in normal conditions and complex threats. Harmonising their command and control means they can be better equipped to respond to changes in the operational environment and any threat that arises. In an increasingly hostile and unstable world, unified and highly trained SOF will be of great use to the country and its allies. It is therefore likely that Finnish SOFs will gain relevance, both nationally and internationally.
Moreover, Finland’s recent accession to NATO will benefit both blocs, especially Finland. NATO membership will strengthen the defensive and preventive capabilities of the Finnish Defence Forces. In addition, Finland will receive support and improved practical capabilities to ensure that it can effectively receive military assistance. Finland will therefore acquire military support that strengthens its compatibility with other members, including its SOFs. FINSOFs are now part of NATO´s SOFCOM (source). In addition, Finnish forces will be included in international exercises and military crisis management.
The Finnish Special Forces have demonstrated that, despite their size, they are very flexible and highly prepared in a variety of scenarios. Although they are small units, they are very effective given their training and equipment. The recent decision to unify and consolidate special operations forces will better prepare them to respond to disruptions under normal conditions and complex threats. In addition, Finland’s NATO membership will strengthen the country’s military capabilities. Finland will receive support and improved practical capabilities as well as military assistance. NATO membership will therefore allow for more compatibility between Finland and other members.