Finnish Joint Air-Ground Integration

Building Allied Partner Capability


Col. Thomas Goettke, U.S. Army
Lt. Col. Mikko Viren, Finnish Army


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M270 multiple launch rocket system

At the invitation of the Finnish Army commander, Lt. Gen. Pasi Välimäki, the 10th Mountain Division commander, the division artillery commander, and the division fires enterprise converged on Helsinki in April 2023 to attend a Finnish air ground integration seminar. Preexisting relationships and identified capability gaps naturally brought fires and airspace professionals together to review further growth opportunities, but NATO’s newest addition sought a niche function. Throughout the seminar, all contributors emphasized the importance of synchronization and integration at the division level and the means to achieve it. Understanding their new role as allies, the Finnish Army studied how they fought and identified a need for reform, specifically to develop and exercise a more robust air ground integration competency. Furthermore, Välimäki laid out an ambitious timeline to develop initial capability for the Defender Europe exercise series (Nordic Response and Northern Forest) by the end of calendar year 2023. The 10th Mountain Division arrived in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility in March 2023 and brought subject-matter experts with experience in this skill set. The article details how the United States and Finland paired with each other on a training path to build a clearly defined division-level warfighting capability and address an identified allied capability gap.

Why Does Finland Need Joint Air-Ground Capability?

Finland has a modern army and is adept at the employment of close air support in singular or limited instances. Now part of the NATO alliance, the Finnish Army’s airspace purview must expand to account for the realities of coalition warfare. NATO air capabilities are orders of magnitude greater than Finnish national capabilities in scale and remain essential for optimizing resources toward an adversary who exploits the principle of mass. Now part of the NATO alliance, the Finnish Army must display the capability to leverage all resources the alliance brings. The Finnish Army identified this gap and sought U.S. assistance in building air-land integration capability.

Background: U.S. Joint Air-Ground Integration Center

The joint air-ground integration center (JAGIC) is the action arm of the current operations integration cell (COIC) and must be collaborative, appropriately resourced, and properly organized to efficiently accomplish division collective tasks.1 A combination of Air Force and Army personnel in the JAGIC control airspace, coordinate interdiction, ensure friendly force identification, and control joint fires—it is strictly a current operations function.2 The JAGIC chief, in constant collaboration with the division current operations chief make informed decisions based on designated priorities on striking targets and integrating joint assets in the division’s assigned airspace.3 The current operations fight necessitates mission command.4 To operate at the frequency and volume demanded of the JAGIC, the division staff develops high payoff target lists, attack guidance, and target selections standards to enable quick decision making that within the commander’s intent but can be executed with mission command.5

The JAGIC must rapidly clear airspace and conduct joint fires in complex environments.6 The JAGIC performs these functions through the organization of existing personnel, specifically the functions of the air support operations center (ASOC), tactical air control party (TACP), and the COIC. The ASOC is a decentralized execution element from the supporting air component and controls joint air assets.7 “The ASOC may be delegated airspace control responsibilities by the ACA [airspace control authority].”8

The JAGIC’s collaboration and ability to pass information quickly is its most critical function.9 Placing JAGIC members next to or near each other when executing complementary functions enables shared understanding, responsiveness, and reduces risk.10 While the right personnel remain essential components of the JAGIC, consistently training together creates the familiarity and confidence required to execute proper battle drills.11

To perform its designated mission, a JAGIC must know, possess, or understand the following:

  • All communication capabilities with supporting or supported entities to include (and rehearse) primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency methods of communication
  • The target synchronization matrix, which includes
    • high-payoff target list
    • attack guidance matrix/target selection standards
    • close air support distribution decisions
    • air tasking order
    • airspace control order
    • delegation of authorities matrix
    • decision support template
    • synchronization matrix
    • current orders and fragmentary orders
  • The required scheme of fires and sequence of effects that achieve the commander’s end state
  • The fires and effects missions that are essential to achieve objectives and which, if not performed, result in mission failure
  • The operations synchronization brief, a battle rhythm event during which the future operations plan is handed off to the current operations team (This battle rhythm event normally takes place twenty-four hours prior to execution and includes prioritized planned targets, scheduled fire missions, and missions that the JAGIC must execute or not interfere with.)
  • Situational understanding of ongoing operations and a common operational picture
  • Allied and partner-nation capabilities and caveats to optimally employ their systems
  • Sustainment limitations

Normal JAGIC Collective Training Plan

With frequent turnover of personnel and constantly evolving training calendars, U.S. units have become accustomed to building JAGIC capability—normally oriented on a series of command-post exercises (CPX) and culminating in a Mission Command Training Program Warfighter exercise. The U.S. Army has been refining the JAGIC concept for more than a decade with the Air Force and formalized it in 2019 with Army Techniques Publication 3-91.1, The Joint Air Ground Integration Center.12 A normal U.S. Army JAGIC training progression would include the following steps:

  1. Identify JAGIC members to serve with longevity to build relationships and confidence.
  2. Develop procedures for how the center operates and codify in a tactical standing operating procedure.
  3. Individual study by each contributing member.
  4. Formal education by the echelons above brigade and specialized joint air-ground training team at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The entire team attends this training together after steps 1–3.
  5. Training events that focus on integration of systems from all participating staff entities.
  6. Training events that externally stimulate JAGIC battle drills and rehearse digital connectivity among all systems.
  7. Certifying training event(s).

Initial Steps

While at the April 2023 Helsinki Conference, 10th Mountain Division leadership invited the Finnish fires personnel and joint terminal attack controllers to their headquarters to observe Saber Guardian 23, one of Defender Europe’s foundational exercises. Acting as higher command to the 2nd Romanian Division for Saber Guardian, the 10th Mountain Division exercised the full battle rhythm, developing all outputs for JAGIC execution. Romanian and Finnish leaders witnessed the 10th Mountain Division in full warfighting mode, providing further contextual understanding for the importance of addressing identified gaps. During the exercise, 10th Mountain and Finnish Army Command (ARCOM) leaders developed a plan to achieve initial air-ground capability by the end of the calendar year. While this relatively straightforward task became a division priority, the 10th Mountain Division did not know many of the unique variables associated with guiding their new ally to the desired end state.

Seek First to Understand

The 10th Mountain Division leaders sought first to understand. The duration of this initiative will extend beyond 10th Mountain’s tenure in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, but the purpose of the effort was to bring a tailored warfighting capability to NATO’s newest ally on an abridged timeline. ARCOM cannot simply replicate the U.S. process, it must tailor and scale the effort within the current Finnish force design and joint architecture.13 10th Mountain Division leaders attended Finland’s Lightning Strike exercise in May 2023 to better understand how the Finnish Army operates in the field and to better inform the effort moving forward. Many cultural, doctrinal, technical, modernization, and relationship-based hurdles remained for the paired allies despite attempts to prepare a logical training path.

Finnish F/A-18 fighter jets

The Catalyst

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 changed assumptions across Europe for the first time in over thirty years.14 The 2022 mass invasion was the largest and most lethal Russian attempt to reunite portions of its diaspora. In Finland, the invasion unsettled peace of mind. Despite worldwide support for Ukraine, Russian aggression reinforced the idea that if you are not treaty-bound, nobody is coming to help. Despite potential tactical gains, one obvious Russian strategic failure was the addition of a new NATO partner that shared a 1,300 km Russian border. With political conditions aligning for the formal introduction into NATO, the Finnish Army had to greatly expand their capability to fight as a member of a collective security agreement and as an ally.

The Culture

As 10th Mountain leaders approached potential training solutions, an incomplete understanding of the Finnish culture proved to be an obstacle in early progress. With national defense in mind, the Finnish Army has emphasized self-reliance and maintained large-scale combat capability in the form of light, autonomous, and cold-weather proficiency. Finland’s geographically focused training demonstrated credibility in its force and hedged against external assistance should hostilities arise. Inherently distrustful of outsiders, the Finnish Army had to be able to follow through and act on any threat to the homeland.15 When sharing a 1,300 km border with Russia, any unilateral military action carries political implications.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II

Traditionally, service in the armed forces is seen as a rite of passage, where citizens support mobilization requirements and the total defense concept. The Finnish Defence Forces can muster 280,000 combatants in minimal time to address external threats, providing them a rich talent pool of readily accessible and exploitable civilian skills.16 Their ability to rapidly fill identified needs from the private sector stands in stark contrast to some of their larger allies who struggle to meet their recruiting and retention goals. Similar to U.S. units, the Finnish Army has unit-specific cultures, influenced by their regional location, unit legacies, and history. Finnish Defence Forces have only nascent interaction with sister services and possess limited joint capability.

Finally, the Finnish Army approach their role as an existential one. Even their national sport, Pesäpallo, a derivation of the word baseball, is grounded in developing combat skills—the ball is the same weight as a hand grenade.17 The Finnish cultural approach would bring both advantages and disadvantages to the air-ground integration (AGI) training effort.

State of Interoperability

The three most common categories of military interoperability are human, procedural, and technical. The Finnish Army is currently focused on human and procedural interoperability; they are confident that they can catch up technically. The Finns have a professional army and know themselves well. Their objective assessment has informed a path forward.

First, Finnish leadership focuses on human interoperability, informed by their emphasis on international experience and service outside Finland. Although viewed equally, promotion rates heavily favor those who have expeditionary experience and foreign international service. The idea that previous experience will grow foundational competencies and enhance future service is a sound approach upon entry to NATO, but internal personnel structural reform is a noteworthy undertaking to fully contribute to the alliance. Active-duty Finnish Army leaders make up only one out of every ten service members. These leaders are task saturated, performing or reforming processes while instructing, informing, or updating reservists during critical training events. From the onset of discussion, one repeating theme during the training path was the lack of flexibility in the Finnish manning construct. Creating new positions or making permanent moves to match an identified capability gap would take considerable time and require tough institutional decisions. Understanding these limitations, the ARCOM prioritized the right personnel for continued AGI capability development but experienced delays and shortfalls with joint partners throughout 2023. Finally, the Finnish relationship with the United States was the easiest hurdle to overcome—two professional armies discussing the details of building a niche capability against a shared threat naturally brought like-minded organizations together.

The ARCOM encounters a procedural problem in their current force design because multidomain operations demand a large degree of integrated and centralized command and control at scale. Historically, disaggregated squads, platoons, and snipers on skis have won the day and remain a foundational component to Finnish national defense, but managing a volume problem on multiple fronts requires integration and synchronization. Pre-NATO, Finland was well-rehearsed and integrated at the land tactical level. Now, with the full complement of NATO resources in support, the Finnish Defence Forces must develop processes to become jointly integrated. Target prioritization, airspace management, and codifying a battlefield architecture remain critical to maintaining tempo along multiple corridors with finite resources in the joint fight. Additionally, now an ally, Finland must heavily weigh national decision-making against NATO partner support, authorities, and timing. Preparing for both a supporting and supported role changes much of ARCOM’s historical human and procedural assumptions.

Technically, the Finns have an army suited and rehearsed for their unique terrain. However, an identified gap is their integration into the joint community. Previously, autonomous operations would enable the use of singular air platforms in support of brigade and below actions. The volume of air support that can be expected from NATO allies, at a minimum, requires an integrated air picture at echelon. Parallel efforts to technically integrate command-and-control systems are underway but require time for testing and validation. Communications interoperability must occur within the ARCOM at echelon and then to the joint force before branching out to the alliance to integrate a communications architecture in line with NATO standards and expectations.

Regional Dynamics

A notable advantage for the Finnish Army is its long-established regional relationships. With a common enemy and similar cultures, the Nordic countries share a long history of cooperation. Pre-NATO, there was no emphasis on interoperability; the Finnish Army strictly operated on bilateral relationships. However, Finland has found itself in an advantageous position by accurately forecasting likely outcomes, hedging its bets, and moving toward NATO interoperability prior to 2023. While not deliberately orchestrated, the Nordic countries and regional allies favorably postured themselves with like equipment over time, gaining efficiencies and economies of scale that can be exploited in a crisis. The Finnish, Norwegian, and Danish Air Forces have all invested in procuring F-35 capability over the next five years.18 Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Finland possess CV90 infantry fighting vehicles.19 Norway, Estonia, and Finland all have K9 (South Korean) howitzers.20 The possession of like equipment sets make tactical interoperability an easier regional problem and mitigates risk in mobilizing regional allies against a threat.

Training Plan Execution

Building Finnish joint air-ground capability occurred across seven distinct training events (see figure 1). Through the lens of John Kotter’s leading change model, Lt. Gen. Pasi Välimäki studied the problem and developed a sense of urgency, gathered a coalition, and communicated his vision at the April 2023 JAGI Conference in Helsinki.21 In partnership with Maj. Gen. Greg Anderson, 10th Mountain Division commander, both leaders empowered action, looking to exploit quick wins through scheduled training events through the remainder of 2023. The two leaders set the stage by creating an impetus for change, engaging the collective organizations, and mobilizing efforts to address the identified gap. Again, all parties left the conference with Välimäki’s sense of urgency owing to guidance of establishing initial capability by the close of calendar year 2023.


To better understand how the Finnish Army fights and observe the identified AGI gap, a team from 10th Mountain Division fires attended Operation Lightning Strike, an annual Finnish multinational live-fire exercise with Finland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The exercise’s interoperability goal was to integrate Finnish fires via the artillery systems cooperation activities bridge to demonstrate technical interoperability, but 10th Mountain representatives attended to understand the full suite of capabilities and systems resident in the Finnish Army. May’s Saber Guardian exercise served as the initial step to solidify Finnish relationships, conduct detailed coordination for future training, and observe the desired AGI competency real time. The largest component required for success of the AGI capability build was the integration of the Finnish Air Force (FAF). In June, the UK hosted an annual Air Land Integration Conference that offered a perfect venue to initiate integration of critical JAGIC roles. The 10th Mountain team brought their senior air director; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance liaison officer; and procedural controller from the 1st Expeditionary Air Support Squadron in Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania to amplify the need for air force inclusion. However, the timeline proved too ambitious, and the FAF was unable to attend. This missed opportunity was the first in a series of indicators highlighting how difficult it is to impart institutional change on an accelerated timeline.

Acknowledging a clear joint service gap, the 10th Mountain and Finnish Army headquarters teams met several times during the UK conference to adjust the path forward. With insight on how to gain solidarity for the joint inclusion and buy-in of the FAF, the two parties agreed on a “JAGIC workshop,” which would be attended by FAF officers across several commands, all Finnish training components, and all Finnish Corps headquarters. Taking the better part of four months of preparation, this early August 2023 gathering generated much interest among attendees and initiated discussion throughout the Finnish joint community on the necessary capabilities for corps warfighting as a NATO ally.

In late August, the Finnish conducted a wargame of the Finnish defense plan with their Nordic allies and U.S. representatives. In a merger of historical plans and new assumptions, the need for a robust AGI capability that can solve simultaneous discrete tactical airspace actions and handle a large volume of joint air assets became abundantly clear before everyone’s eyes. While the FAF participated in the wargame, joint inclusion on AGI development remained in an embryonic stage.

The two allied nations continued to pursue existing training opportunities as a vehicle for AGI capability advancement; ARCOM brought its joint fire support element (JFSE) to Ruska 23, the FAF’s largest annual live multinational exercise. This exercise is the primary mechanism for the FAF to train their force with live aircraft. As a result, the training objectives remained air force focused and inflexible. However, ARCOM planners introduced change by offering their JFSE as a training enhancer, with a secondary objective of forcing recognition of the identified AGI gap into the joint environment. The ARCOM elbowed their way into the exercise, understanding they would likely be viewed as a nuisance. The ARCOM JFSE forced the FAF to recognize the reality of joint requirements and communicated the capability gap to the FAF in an experiential manner. As a result, the ARCOM advanced rapidly in procedural and technical interoperability with the FAF, forcing the acknowledgment of joint requirements and communicating the capability gap in an air force exercise. Again, the biggest shortfall of the exercise remained the lack of FAF personnel supporting the Army’s JFSE. A single navy joint terminal attack controller supported the JFSE, leaving Finland unable to perform three of the five JAGIC functions and two of the four JAGIC operations as outlined in Army Techniques Publication 3-91.1 (see figure 2). To highlight the nascent level of discussion between the services, the coordinating altitude started at five thousand feet above ground level to accommodate unmanned aircraft, then to twelve thousand feet to accommodate mortars, then eventually to twenty thousand feet to accommodate artillery. The changes to this metric alone indicate a better shared understanding and a joint approach to airspace management. Both services realized the efficiency and permissiveness associated with these adjustments, but these principled changes did not introduce the requisite complexity or anticipated volume associated with a large-scale, multidomain environment. Many senior leaders observing Ruska 23 saw the tangible AGI gap firsthand and organized efforts to address the personnel gap during November’s army CPX. Although successful in many ways, Ruska did not prove an adequate training forum for AGI capabilities.


Despite the lack of objective AGI advancement, Ruska 23 did provide great clarity for the design of November’s Army headquarters CPX. In several forums, the 10th Mountain team and ARCOM leaders concluded that a minimum force of four FAF personnel must be collocated with the JFSE to address the airspace complexity they would encounter. Acknowledging that four personnel was an acceptable and tailored solution, the FAF agreed to fill the key functions of the senior air director, airspace manager, and two procedural controllers. In execution, the four FAF personnel supporting the army CPX immediately saw the joint problem set and the associated airspace complexity across services and at higher echelons. As the CPX progressed, 10th Mountain partners helped work through refinements in battlespace architecture, fire support coordination, unit airspace plans, battle drills, and staff processes. FAF personnel also represented the need for an army entity to support the air force, similar to a battlefield coordination detachment’s function. All of the polished slide decks, long-form conversations, and good will associated with previous engagements transitioned to a joint understanding of the problem during the November CPX. The Finnish joint force now understands that a $200 million aircraft is only as good as the procedures you have to employ it across the spectrum of conflict. While there is much work left, November’s army CPX served as an inflection point to joint ownership of the AGI problem set.


Change is not easy or attained quickly; there are always costs and tradeoffs. Furthermore, extensive research supports that changing culture is a difficult and long-term endeavor. Achieving a manning solution alone for joint AGI took seven months of effort and eight training events. Now that air force capability resides inside the ARCOM COIC, it can serve as a model moving forward for developing a subordinate capability inside the Finnish Army Corps. To build upon the progress of the U.S.–Finnish relationship, the 10th Mountain Division could formalize a reciprocal unit exchange through one of the Finnish Corps. Similar to the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, a reciprocal unit exchange provides active-duty units the authority to pursue bilateral opportunities that enhance readiness and warfighting capabilities. Partnered training throughout the course of 2023 established a solid foundation for further growth. Looking forward to calendar year 2024, ARCOM must expand the complexity of its exercises to build on the change it achieved in 2023 to make the effort stick. While still ambitious, modernization and larger capability expectations for the next three to five years will drive continued AGI emphasis. Leaders from these sister services understand that to experience capability in three to five years, reform is required today. The Finnish solution will be a tailored one and likely executed in a nonsequential way, but the need and reality-based nature of this identified gap requires cultural change on an abridged timeline. ARCOM is up for the task; their approach has been informed and is flexible enough to make adjustments throughout 2024. Ultimately, achieving Finnish AGI capability is the result of two allies achieving shared understanding, jointly working a vision for future training, and ardently working with each other to stay on the established training path while overcoming friction.


  1. Army Techniques Publication 3-91.1/Air Force Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures 3-2.86, The Joint Air Ground Integration Center (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2019), 1-1, 2-1.
  2. Ibid., 1-4.
  3. Ibid., 2-1.
  4. Ibid., 2-3.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., v, 1-2.
  7. Ibid., 1-3.
  8. Ibid., 1-2.
  9. Ibid., 1-6.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., 1-17.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Mikko Viren (lieutenant colonel, Finnish Army), in conversation with Thomas Goettke, n.d.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Narrative summary provided by Mikko Viren (lieutenant colonel, Finnish Army), n.d.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Kati Pohjanpalo and Niclas Rolander, “Nordic Nations Agree to Jointly Operate Fighter Jet Fleet of 250,” Bloomberg, 24 March 2023,
  19. Sam Hart, “Insight: Why the CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle Is Making a Clean Sweep of Nordic Markets,” Shephard, 19 September 2023,
  20. Defense News January 2024, “Six Countries of K9 Self-Propelled Howitzer User Group Meet in Helsinki,” Army Recognition, 23 January 2024,
  21. “The 8 Steps for Leading Change,” Kotter, accessed 30 April 2024, The framework to John Kotter’s eight-step model is creating a sense of urgency, building a guiding coalition, forming a strategic vision, enlisting a volunteer army, enabling actions by removing barriers, generating short-term wins, sustaining acceleration, and instituting change.


Col. Thomas Goettke, U.S. Army, is the commander of the 10th Mountain Division Artillery at Fort Drum, New York.

Lt. Col. Mikko Viren is chief of the Finnish Army Command G-3 Current Operations and Fires.


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July-August 2024