(Updates with Finland’s military strategy, ministry comments)
HELSINKI, March 1 (Reuters) - Finland is set to buy Lockheed Martin cruise missiles for 178.5 million euros ($239 million), the country’s defence ministry said, part of the Nordic country’s efforts to boost its strike capability.
Thursday’s announcement follows the government’s military reforms unveiled last month. Defence Minister Stefan Wallin has said Finland aims for “fewer uniforms but ... better muscles”, meaning more effective weapons and training programmes.
The deal for the AGM-158 JASSM missiles includes the weapons as well as software and training. Payment will be spread over six years, the ministry said. The U.S. Congress and Department of Defense approved the deal in November.
The missiles, which allow attacks on enemy positions from up to 350 kilometres away, will be fitted on Finland’s fleet of F-18 Hornet aircraft, which are being upgraded.
Finland has kept a low military profile for fear of provoking its neighbour Russia, but has increased cooperation with NATO in recent years. The government is trying to improve the military’s effectiveness, while maintaining mandatory military service for men. ($1 = 0.7476 euros) (Reporting by Eero Vassinen and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by David Holmes)