The Finnish Defence Forces will have to sell or scrap up to 100,000 assault rifles that are in mint condition. The current stockpile of weaponry is bigger than what would be needed for a diminishing wartime reserve.
“An assault rifle is available for everyone in the wartime configuration”, says Commander Taneli Uosukainen of the staff of the Army Materiel Command.
At present the troop strength of the wartime forces is 350,000 soldiers. After changes that are to be implemented soon, the reserve is to be reduced to 250,000 or less.
Plans for what to do with the superfluous assault rifles as soon as the reforms for the defence forces are passed.
The easiest solution would be to have the rifles crushed and sold for scrap, as has been done before in the decommissioning of obsolete weapons.
However, there is some resistance to the idea that functioning weapons should be scrapped simply because of storage and maintenance problems.
The Defence Forces have denied rumours according to which tens of thousands of assault rifles would have already been destroyed in secret.
Active reservists have been especially unhappy with the prospect of the premature destruction of useable materiel.
The weapons that would be scrapped are unused. They are Kalashnikov-type assault rifles which Finland bought in the 1990s from China, and from Germany, which unloaded surplus equipment from the stockpiles of the National People’s Army of East Germany.
Finland acquired a total of 200,000 of the bargain assault rifles. They have not been used in the training of conscripts because they are of lower quality than Finnish-made assault rifles.
Commander Taneli Uosukainen says that they are good battlefield weapons, but they are not as durable in military training as Finnish-made guns are.
Another issue involves the East German ammunition that Finland has in its stockpiles, which the Defence Forces do not want to use in Finnish guns because of a corrosive effect.
The ammunition can be used in the East German weapons, which have a different type of finishing.
“Another way to act is to sell the weapons, mainly to big buyers abroad”, Uosukainen says.
However, selling the guns is difficult, as there is little demand for Chinese and East German assault rifles in the West. The buyers would be mainly from Third World countries.
Over four years ago the US asked Finland to donate 100,000 assault rifles to Afghanistan. The initiative foundered because of Finnish policy of not selling weapons to conflict zones.
Meanwhile, the Defence Forces are upgrading Finnish-made assault rifles, installing mounts for night-vision telescopic sights, for instance.
The present Rk 62 assault rifle is to remain in the use of the Finnish Defence Forces through the 2020s.