The Finnish Defence Forces (Finnish language: puolustusvoimat , Swedish language: försvarsmakten ) are responsible for the defence of Finland. It is a cadre army of 15,000, of which 8,900 are professional soldiers (officers), extended with conscripts and reservists such that the standard readiness strength is 34,700 people in uniform (27,300 Army, 3,000 Navy, and 4,400 Air Force). A universal male conscription is in place, under which all men above 18 years of age serve for 165, 255 or 347 days. Alternative non-military service and volunteer service by women (about 500 chosen annually ) are possible.
Finland is the only non-NATO EU country bordering Russia. Finland's official policy states that the 900,000 reservists with mostly ground weaponry are a sufficient deterrent. The army consists of a highly mobile field army backed up by local defence units. The army defends the national territory and its military strategy employs the use of the heavily forested terrain and numerous lakes to wear down an aggressor, instead of attempting to hold the attacking army on the frontier.
Finland's defence budget equals about 2 billion euro or 1.4-1.6 percent of the GDP. The voluntary overseas service is highly popular and troops serve around the world in UN, NATO and EU missions. Homeland defence willingness stands at around 80%, one of the highest rates in Europe.
Although Finland did not achieve full national independence until 1917, its current military traditions go back more than 300 years. As an integrated part of the kingdom of Sweden, Finland supplied the Swedish armies not only with drafted foot soldiers, but also with highly qualified officers. Contributing as much as one-third of the manpower of the Swedish armed forces, the Finnish infantry and cavalry distinguished themselves at a time when Sweden was playing a decisive role in European power politics. The setbacks that Sweden eventually suffered in Europe were explained by the Finns, with considerable justification, as mistakes that had been made by the Swedish kings on the political level. The performance of the Finns on various battlefields had justified their reputation for bravery and their confidence in their own martial abilities.
With the decline of Swedish power in the eighteenth century, the Finns were called upon to defend the country's borders to the east against the traditional enemy, Russia. On three major occasions, Russian armies occupied parts of the country for a number of years before eventually being driven out by Finnish and Swedish forces. When Finland became the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire in 1809 as a consequence of the Finnish War (1808-1809), the Finnish units of the Swedish army were disbanded.
The first indigenous Finnish military elements of three light infantry regiments were raised at the time of Napoleon's eastward drive in 1812, but during most of the nineteenth century, the only Finnish military force was a guards battalion paid for by the tsar. Finns were specifically exempted from Russian conscription, but more than 3,000 of them, mostly from the aristocracy, served in the tsarist armies between 1809 and 1917.
The Finnish Military Academy at Hamina continued to turn out officers who served with distinction in the Imperial Russian Army, a disproportionate number rising to the rank of general.
In 1878 the tsar permitted Finland to raise its own national militia through a conscription law providing for selection of recruits by lot to serve either as regulars or reservists. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Finnish army consisted of eight provincial battalions of infantry and a regiment of dragoons, together with thirty-two reserve companies. In 1901, as part of the Russification movement, the Russian authorities introduced a military service law obligating Finns to serve in the tsarist army, for four years, anywhere within the Russian Empire. Only one regiment of dragoons and one battalion of guards from the Finnish army were to be retained; the rest were to be incorporated in the imperial army. The new law was met by passive resistance in Finland, and it strengthened the Finnish nationalist movement. In a shift of policy in 1905, the conscription law was suspended, and Finns were never again called upon to serve in Russian uniform. Nevertheless, the Russians dissolved the militia, the military academy, and the guards battalion.
Soon after Finland gained independence in December 1917, a nationalistic, middle-class militia known as the White Guards, which had been secretly established in 1904 and 1905 and which had remained underground since then disguised as athletic clubs and other groups, was officially proclaimed the army of the Finnish government under General Mannerheim. This so-called White Army was strengthened and trained by 1,100 officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who had traveled clandestinely to Germany during World War I and had formed the Twenty-seventh Royal Prussian Jaeger Battalion. Returning to Finland, they brought back with them urgently needed small arms captured from the Russians. The White forces were swelled by new conscripts, officers of the former Finnish armed forces, Swedish volunteers, and Finnish officers who had served in the Swedish and in the Russian armies, in addition to the jaegers. After three months of bitter civil conflict, the White Army of about 70,000 troops defeated the Red Guards from the radical wing of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, in May 1918. Both sides suffered thousands of casualties. In four months, the White Guards had evolved from a strongly motivated, but ill-trained, militia into a battle-hardened, disciplined national armed force. Although numerically superior and reinforced by the Russian garrisons in Finland, the Red Guards were deficient in equipment, training, and leadership.
During and after the Civil War, conflict emerged between the younger jaeger officers of the Finnish army and the former tsarist officers in its upper ranks. When most of the Finnish officer corps threatened to resign in 1924 over the dominance of the Russian-trained leadership, most of the Russian officers were moved aside and the jaeger officers began to occupy the higher echelons, bringing the influence of German military doctrine and training methods with them.
The new government reinstituted conscription after the Civil War and established a small national army. It also introduced a mobilization system and compulsory refresher courses for reservists. The Finnish Military Academy was reactivated in 1919, and during the 1920s a reserve officers' school was formed, together with NCO schools for various branches and arms of the service. The Civil Guard, a voluntary rightist formation of 100,000 personnel derived from the White Guards, constituted a local auxiliary. Nevertheless, Finland did not succeed in building a strong national army. The requirement of one year of compulsory service was greater than that imposed by any other Scandinavian country in the 1920s and the 1930s, but political opposition to defense spending left the military badly equipped to resist attack by the Soviet Union, the only security threat in Finnish eyes.
When the Soviets invaded in November 1939, they were met by a force of 135,000 Finnish troops organized into 9 divisions. In what became known as the Winter War, the Finnish army defeated numerically superior invading Soviet formations within a relatively short period of time. The initial Red Army contingents were poorly trained, and they were ill prepared for combat under severe inclement winter conditions. The Finnish army was able to inflict sharp reversals in battles on the Karelian Isthmus and in northeastern Finland, killing between 200,000 and 250,000 Soviet soldiers. Momentarily, it looked as if Finland would turn back the aggressor and would inflict an astonishing military defeat on its great and powerful neighbor. When the Soviet commanders reverted to a strategy of wearing down the greatly outnumbered Finns in Karelia by their overwhelming firepower, however, Finland's defeat was inevitable. On March 12, 1940, an armistice yielded slightly more territory to the Soviets than they had initially demanded in 1939. The Soviets regarded this territory as being vital to their preparations for a future showdown with Nazi Germany.
In the Continuation War, fought by Finland as a cobelligerent with Germany from 1941 to 1944, Finnish forces again demonstrated their superior qualities. Thanks to the Germans, the army was now much better equipped, and the period of conscription had been increased to two years, making possible the formation of sixteen infantry divisions. The fully mobilized Finnish army of 400,000 was numerically superior to the opposing Soviet forces, which had been thinned to meet the need for troops to resist the German onslaught on the central front. The Finnish goal was not conquest but regaining territories traditionally Finnish. The Finns refused German pressure to direct the main push of its troops to breaking the siege of Leningrad instead pushing 80 to 160 kilometers into Soviet territory farther north above Lake Ladoga before settling for static defensive operations. The Finnish army continued to occupy this area until the major Soviet offensive of June 1944. Confined in the losing Axis coalition, the Finns had to retreat for a second time, and they escaped total Soviet invasion and occupation only by entering into a separate agreement that obligated them to military action against the retreating German armies.
The demobilization and regrouping of the Finnish Defense Forces were carried out in late 1944 under the supervision of the Allied Control Commission. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1947, which imposed restrictions on the size and equipment of the armed forces and required disbandment of the Civil Guard, Finland reorganized its defense forces. The fact that the conditions of the peace treaty did not include prohibitions on reserves or mobilization made it possible to contemplate an adequate defense establishment within the prescribed limits. The reorganization resulted in the abolition of about 15 percent of officer and NCO positions, the adoption of the brigade—in place of the division- -as the basic formation, and the reduction of the term of service for conscripts to 240 days (330 days for NCO and for reserve officer candidates). The organization of the high command was unchanged, but the minister of defense was given slightly more authority in decision making. The completion of this reorganization in 1952 established the structure within which the modern Defense Forces were to evolve.
After the second world war, the Finnish Defence Forces relied largely on war-time material. The defence spending was minimal until the early 1960s. During the peak of the Cold War, the Finnish government made a conscious effort to increase defence capability. This resulted in the commissioning of several new weapons systems and strengthening the defence of Finnish Lapland by establishing new garrisons there. From 1968 onwards, the Finnish government adopted the doctrine of territorial defence, which require the use of large land areas to slow down and wear out a potential aggressor. The doctrine was complemented by the concept of total defence which calls for the use of society's all resources for national defence in case of a crisis. One of the aims of the new doctrines was to prevent a strategic strike which Soviet Union employed successfully to topple the government of Czechoslovakia in 1968. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Defence Forces capabilities were developed from this basis. In an all-out confrontation between the two major blocs, Finnish objective would have been to prevent any military incursions inside the borders and, in this way, to keep Finland outside the war.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 did not annihilate the military threat perceived by the government, but the nature of the threat has changed. While the concept of total, territorial defence was not dropped, the military planning has moved towards the capability to prevent and frustrate a strategic attack toward the vital regions of the country.
The Finnish Defence Forces are under the command of the Chief of Defence (currently General Ari Puheloinen), who is directly subordinate to the President of the Republic in matters related to the military command. Apart from the General Staff, the military branches are the Finnish Army (Maavoimat), the Finnish Navy (Merivoimat) and the Finnish Air Force (Ilmavoimat). The Border Guard (Rajavartiolaitos) (including the coast guard) is under the Ministry of the Interior but can be incorporated fully or in part into the defence forces when required by defence readiness.
The Army is divided into four military provinces (Finnish language: sotilaslääni ) (Southern, Western, Eastern and Northern) which bear the command responsibility for all brigade-level units and military districts. Subordinated to the military provinces, there are 19 military districts (Finnish language: aluetoimisto ), which are responsible for carrying out conscription, training and activating of reservists and planning and executing territorial defence of their areas. All logistical duties of the Army are carried out by the Army Materiel Command (Finnish language: Maavoimien materiaalilaitos ), which has one Logistics Regiment for each military province.
The Navy consists of headquarters, supporting elements and two maritime commands (Finnish language: meripuolustusalue ): Archipelago Sea and Gulf of Finland maritime commands. These commands are brigade-level units responsible for conscript training and the integrity of Finland's territorial waters. They include both ship and coastal units.
The Air Force consists of headquarters, supporting elements and three air commands (Finnish language: lennosto ): Satakunta, Lapland and Karelian Air Commands. They are responsible for securing the integrity of the Finnish airspace during peace and for conducting aerial warfare independently during a crisis.
In the beginning of January 2008, the Finnish Army organization was overhauled. The three Army commands and the 12 military provinces were replaced by four new operative military provinces, 3 territorial military provinces and 18 military districts. In the new system, the operative military provinces form the operative regional headquarters, each consisting of several brigades, while the territorial military provinces and military districts conduct conscription, train and manage the reserve, found the bulk of crisis-time units, and take care of the local defence. Each military district has its civilian counterpart among the regions of Finland, which facilitates the civilian-military cooperation in total defence.
The military training of the reservists is primarily the duty of the Defence Forces, but it is assisted by the National Defence Training Association of Finland (Finnish language: Maanpuolustuskoulutusyhdistys ). The association provides reservists with personal, squad and platoon level military training. In the training, most of the instructors are volunteers, but when Defence Forces materiel is used, the training always takes place under the direct supervision of career military personnel. In addition, the Defence Forces support the voluntary training by providing instructors and giving logistical support. On the other hand, the Defence Forces may request the association to run specialized courses for personnel placed in reserve units. From the beginning of year 2008, the legislation concerning the association will require that the chairman and the majority of the members of its board are chosen by the Finnish Government. The other board members are chosen by NGOs active in the national defence.
The Finnish defence forces is based on a universal male conscription. All men above 18 years of age are liable to serve either 6, 9 or 12 months. Yearly about 27,000 conscripts are trained. 80% of the males complete the service. The conscripts first receive basic training, after which they are assigned to various units for special training. Privates who are trained for tasks not requiring special skills serve for 6 months. In technically demanding tasks the time of service is 9, or in some cases 12 months. Those selected for NCO (non-commissioned officer) or officer training serve 12 months. At the completion of the service, the conscripts receive a reserve military rank of private, lance corporal, corporal, sergeant or second lieutenant, depending on their training and accomplishments. After their military service, the conscripts are placed in reserve until the end of their 50th or 60th living year, depending on their military rank. During their time in reserve, the reservists are liable to participate in military refresher exercises for a total of 40, 75 or 100 days, depending on their military rank. In addition, all reservists are liable for activation in a situation where the military threat against Finland has seriously increased, in full or partial mobilization or in a large-scale disaster or a virulent epidemic. The males who do not belong to the reserve may only be activated in case of full mobilization, and those rank-and-file personnel who have fulfilled 50 years of age only with a specific parliamentary decision.
Military service can be started after turning 18. The service can be delayed due to studies, work or other personal reasons until the 28th birthday, but these reasons do not result in exemptions. In addition to lodging, food, clothes and health care the conscripts receive between 5 and 11.70 euros per day, depending on the time they have served. The state also pays for their rent and electricity bills. If the conscripts have families, they are entitled to benefits as well. It is illegal to fire an employee due to military service or due to a refresher exercise or activation. Voluntary females in military service receive a small additional benefit, because they are expected to provide their own underwear and other personal items.
The military service consists of lessons, practical training, various cleaning and maintenance duties and field exercises. The wake-up call is usually at 6 o'clock and the day's service lasts for 12 hours, including meals and some breaks. In the evening there are a few hours of free time. Roll call is at 9 o'clock in the evening, and at 10 o'clock silence is announced, after which no noise can be made. Most weekends conscripts can leave the barracks on Friday and are expected to return by midnight on Sunday. A small force of conscripts are kept in readiness on weekends to aid civil agencies in various types of emergency situations, to guard the premises and to maintain defence in case of a sudden military emergency. Field exercises can go on regardless of the time of day or week.
The training of conscripts is based on joukkotuotanto-principle (lit. English troop production). In this system, 80% of the conscripts train to fulfill a specific role in a specific war-time military unit. Each brigade-level unit has a responsibility of producing specified reserve units from the conscripts it has been allocated. As the reservists are discharged, they receive a specific war-time placement in the unit with which they have trained during their conscription. As the conscripts age, their unit is given new, different tasks and materiel. Typically, reservists are placed for the first five years in first-line units, then moved to military formations with less demanding tasks, while the reservists unable to serve in the unit are substituted with reservists from the reserve without specific placement. In refresher exercises, the unit is then given a new training for these duties, if the defence funding permits this.
The inhabitants of the demilitarized Åland islands are exempt from military service. By the Conscription act of 1950, they are however required to serve a time at a local institution, like the coast guard instead. However, until such service has been arranged, they are freed from service obligation. The non-military service of Åland islands has not been arranged since the introduction of the act, and there are no plans to institute it. The inhabitants of Åland islands can also volunteer for military service on the mainland. Also exempt from military service are the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is also possible to serve either weapon-free military service of 270 or 362 days or undergo a 12-month-long non-military service. Finnish law requires that men who do not want to serve the defense of the country in any capacity (so-called total objectors) be sentenced to a prison term of 197 days. As of 1995, women were permitted to serve on a voluntary basis and pursue careers as officers. In conscription, women have consideration time of six weeks, during which they have the choice to halt their service without any other specific reason. After the said six weeks, all the same laws and jurisdictions apply to them as to men. Unlike in many other countries women are allowed to serve in all combat arms including front-line infantry and special forces.
The Finnish military ranks follow the Western usage in the officer ranks. As a Finnish peculiarity, the rank of lieutenant has three grades: 2nd lieutenant, lieutenant and senior lieutenant. The 2nd lieutenant is a reserve officer rank, active personnel beginning their service as 1st lieutenants.
The basic structure of the NCO ranks is a variant of the German rank structure, but the rank system has some peculiarities due to different personnel groups. The duties carried out by NCOs in most Western armed forces are carried out by
- warrant officers (opistoupseeri) serving in the ranks from lieutenant to captain. This personnel group is being phased out.
- career NCOs serving in the ranks from enlistee (sotilasammattihenkilö), sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant first class (gunnery sergeant is same-o'-same), master sergeant and sergeant major (sotilasmestari). Career NCO's with rank of sergeant have a sword symbol in their insignia to distinguish them from conscript sergents.
- contractual military personnel (sopimussotilas) serving in the ranks of corporal, sergeant and 2nd lieutenant (reserve officers)
- conscripts in the ranks of corporal, officer student, sergeant and officer cadet.
In a case of war, most of the NCO duties would be carried out by reserve NCOs who have received their training during conscription.
The rank and file of the Finnish Defence Forces is composed of conscripts serving in the ranks of private, lance corporal and NCO student.
|main battle tanks|
|armoured personnel carriers|
armoured fighting vehicles
armoured recovery vehicles
|mobile anti-aircraft missile launchers|
| anti-tank missile launchers|
|short-range ballistic missiles|
|multiple rocket launchers|
| recoilless rifles|
350,000+ Rk 62, probably hundreds of thousands more of Rk 56 Tp, Rk 72 and ~20,000 Rk 95 Tp
| fighter aircraft|
helicopters and UAVs
30 / 11
Finland does not have attack helicopters, submarines, long-range ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons. Legislation forbids nuclear weapons entirely.
Finland has taken part in peacekeeping operations since 1956 (the number of Finnish peacekeepers who have served since 1956 amounts to 43,000). In 2003 over a thousand Finnish peacekeepers were involved in peacekeeping operations, including UN and NATO led missions. According to the Finnish law the maximum simultaneous strength of the peacekeeping forces is limited to 2,000 soldiers.
Since 1956, 39 Finnish soldiers have died while serving in peacekeeping operations
Since 1996 the Pori Brigade has trained parts of the Finnish Rapid Deployment Force (FRDF), which can take part in international crisis management/peacekeeping operations at short notice. The Nyland/Uusimaa Brigade has started training the Amphibious Task Unit (ATU) in recent years, a joint Swedish-Finnish international task unit.
International operations Finland is participating by deploying military units:
- SKJK KFOR in Kosovo (250, is to be lowered to less than 50 by the end of 2010)
- SKJA ISAF in Afghanistan (165 )
International operations Finland is participating by deploying staff officers:
- EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina (5 staff officer)
- EUTM in Uganda (4 staff officers and mentors)
- EUNAVFOR/OPERATION ATALANTA in Gulf of Aden Somalian coast (3 staff officers)
- UNMIL in Liberia (2)
- UNMIS in Sudan (1)
International operations Finland is participating by deploying military obervers
The Finnish military doctrine is based on the concept of total defence. The term total means that all sectors of the government and economy are involved in the defence planning. In principle, each ministry has the responsibility for planning its operations during a crisis. There are no special emergency authorities, such as the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. Instead, each authority regularly trains for crises and has been allocated a combination of normal and emergency powers it needs to keep functioning in any conceivable situation. In a war, all resources of the society may be diverted to serve the national survival. The legal basis for such measures is found in the Readiness Act and in the State of Defence Act, which would come into force through a parliamentary decision in a case of a crisis.
The main objective of the doctrine is to establish and maintain a military force capable of deterring any potential aggressor from using Finnish territory or applying military pressure against Finland. To accomplish this, the defence is organised on the doctrine of territorial defence. The stated main principles of the territorial defence are
- military non-alliance,
- general conscription,
- territorial defence,
- training of conscripts for wartime units,
- dispersed mobilisation, and
- flexible readiness responding to military threats of various degree.
The defence planning is organised to counteract three threat situations:
- A regional crisis that may have effects on Finland.
- Political, economic and military pressure, which may include a threat of using military force and its restricted use.
- Use of military force in the form of a strategic strike or an attack beginning with a strategic strike aimed at seizing territory.
In all cases, the national objective is to keep the vital areas, especially the capital area in Finnish possession. In other areas, the size of the country is used to delay and wear down the invader, until the enemy may be defeated in an area of Finnish choosing. The Army carries most of the responsibility for this task. The war-time army is combined of
- two mechanized battle groups
- three readiness brigades
- two jaeger brigades
- two motorized battle groups
- six infantry brigades (territorial troops)
- special jaeger battalion
- helicopter battalion
- specialized units under general staff
- local defence units
The army units are mostly composed of reservists, the career soldiers manning the command and specialty positions.
The role of the Navy is to repel all attacks carried out against Finnish coasts and to safeguard the territorial integrity during peace time and the "gray" phase of the conflict. The maritime defence relies on combined use of coastal artillery, missile systems and naval mines to wear down the attacker. The Air Force is used to deny the invader the air superiority and to protect most important troops and objects of national importance in conjunction with the ground-based air defence. As the readiness of the Air Force and the Navy is high even during the peace-time, the career personnel have a much more visible role in the war-time duties of these defence branches.
The Border Guard has the responsibility for border security in all situations. During a war, it will contribute to the national defence partially integrated into the army, its total mobilized strength being some 11,600 troops. One of the projected uses for the Border Guard is guerrilla warfare in areas temporarily occupied by enemy.
Defence White Paper 2009Edit
The material goals for decade starting from 2010 are to equip following forces:
- Army Corps Headquarters
- Three Readiness Brigades
- Two mechanized battle groups
- Helicopter battalion
- Special Jaegers battalion
- Five (Regional) battle groups
- Three fighter squadrons
- Six main air force bases
- Two missile fast attack craft squadrons
- Two minelayers
- Two MCM squadrons
- Four ASM batteries
- Two coastal infantry battalions
- Finnish Jäger troops
- Nordic Battlegroup
- Finnish Rapid Deployment Force
- List of senior officers of the Finnish Defence Forces
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Defence Data Portal
- ↑ "Gil/Spike/NT-Dandy". GlobalSecurity.Org. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/israel/spike.htm.
- ↑ Egozi, Arie (26 October 2011). "Finland extends unmanned systems evaluation". Flightglobal. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/finland-extends-unmanned-systems-evaluation-363858/.
- ↑ <
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Jane's World Armies: Finland
- ↑ Nigel Stephenson (November 26, 1989). "Eastern Bloc Unrest Casts Different Light on Finland's '39 Winter War With Russia". http://articles.latimes.com/1989-11-26/news/mn-235_1_winter-war.
- ↑ Text from PD source: US Library of Congress: A Country Study: Finland, Library of Congress Call Number DL1012 .A74 1990.
- ↑ The Finnish legislation concerning conscription has been completely overhauled in 2007. The new legislation which has already been approved by the Parliament of Finland will, most likely, come into force 1-1-2008. No changes are made to the service periods, which are given in Conscription Act (452/1950), 5§ and in the new Conscription Act, 37§. (Both laws in Finnish)
- ↑ The reserve obligation is listed in the §§6–7 of the Conscription Act (452/1950) ((Finnish)) and in §§49–50 of the new Conscription Act ((Finnish). The old Conscription Act mandates the activation of the reserve only in case of full or partial mobilization (§10). The new Conscription Act allows for selective activation of reservists even in situations which do not require even partial mobilization (§§78–89).
- ↑ Asevelvollisen pitkä marssi Ruotuväki 9/2004. Retrieved 11-19-2007. (Finnish) The cited source includes a very good overview of the system, paraphrased here.
- ↑ Finnish Defence Forces: Insignia of rank Retrieved 14 February 2007
- ↑ Equipment of the Finnish Army
- ↑ Hölkkäri On Web - Rauhanturvaajien yhteisö - In the Service of Peace
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 Puolustusvoimat
- ↑ Puolustusvoimat
- ↑ http://www.isaf.nato.int/images/stories/File/Placemats/PLACEMAT.MARCH%2004..pdf
- ↑ The whole of the section is based on leaflet: Finnish Defence Forces. Annual exchange of information on defence planning 2005 according to the Vienna Document 1999.  Cited 14-12-2006. Also the leaflet: Finnish Defence Forces. Finnish military defence, Finland's security policy, Organization of national defence.  has been used. Mobilization strength has been corrected as from the information of Ministry of Defense planning document http://www.defmin.fi/files/1180/LIITE_2_PVn_tulostavoitteet_2009-2012.pdf Cited 2 March 2008.
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