Finland currently owns only unarmed drones, though calls for armed drones have been raised. The Scandinavian country has used Swiss-build ‘Ranger’ drones since 2001, and acquired 250 Israeli-made Orbiter drones in 2012. Both are used solely for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance purposes.

In 2016, the Finnish Defence Forces issued a call for proposals on new fighter jets to replace its Hornets by 2025, and also called for armed drones that could supplement such air power. 

When the deal for Israeli-made drones was closed in 2012, one of the largest newspapers in Finland publicized an article criticizing the arms trade with Israel, the fact that Israeli drones had been used against Palestinians in Gaza, and that such strikes led to numerous civilian deaths. A petition was set up, signed by over 250 prominent Finns such as the..

“world-renowned expert on international law Martti Koskenniemi and the most distinguished Finnish filmmaker of all time, Aki Kaurismäki. They were joined by more than forty professors, a number of Finlandia Prize winners, Finnish MEPs and MPs, stage and film directors, actors, writers and scholars. The petition encompasses an impressive and exhaustive array of the who’s who in Finnish arts, sciences and politics.”

However, the petition fell on deaf ears at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs which, amidst the protest and criticism, helped draft a legal agreement “that enforces strengthened secrecy on, and enables deeper cooperation in, military trade between Finland and Israel.” No comments appear to have been made by Finnish politicans on the use of armed drones by other states either.

The Government’s Defence Report 2017 sheds a light on the most recent developments regarding Finland’s need for unmanned arieal vehicles. It notes that it “is not possible to substitute the Hornet fleet’s capability with .. any unmanned aerial vehicles already in operational use or on the design board; they would cover but a part of the Hornet fleet’s capability.” It therefor opts for both new aircraft and new drones to supplement those aircraft, somewhere in the mid 2020’s. However, no choice has been made yet, and the report notes that “The development of low-observable aircraft and drones warrants a study of new surveillance technologies.”

Articulate Clear Policies

On behalve of Finland, statements were made at the UN recognizing the merits of unmanned arial vehicles for peacekeeping operations. However, on the downsides of drones such as their use for targeted killings, lowering of the barrier for use of force, and scores of civilian deaths their strikes have caused, no statements appear to have been made. In line with this silence, clear policies on how military drones should be used have not been issued either.

Ensure Transparency, Prevent Complicity and Establish Accountability

Finland is not part of NATO, and has not used armed drones itself. This has seemingly undermined the necessity for political debate on the use of armed drones and the need for accountability, transparency, or the effort to prevent complicity in illegal drone strikes.

Finland’s Defence Forces are aware of the threat of unmanned arial vehicles. The Defence Report notes that Russia is developing drones, and that it’s own  “networked air defence system” is able to engage different kinds of threats, ranging from manned aircraft and unmanned air vehicles to cruise missiles.” The country is part of several regimes aiming to control the proliferaiton of armed drones.

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