Chief of Defence (Finland)

The flag of the commander of Finnish defence forces

The Chief of Defence (Finnish: puolustusvoimain komentaja; lit. Commander of the Defence Forces, Swedish: kommendören för försvarsmakten) is the Chief of Defence and commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, under the authority of the Commander in Chief, President of Finland. He commands the Finnish Army, the Finnish Air Force, the Finnish Navy and is assisted by the Defence Command. He is the highest-ranking officer of the forces (Admiral or General) and his deputy is the Chief of Staff of the Defence Command (Finnish: pääesikunnan päällikkö). The current Chief of Defence is General Ari Puheloinen.

In contrast to many other Western countries, the Finnish Defence Forces have an actual military commander with direct authority over all forces, and the Chief of Staff is a separate position. The Chief of Defence is responsible for all operative aspects of the Defence Forces, while the Ministry of Defence, headed by the civilian minister, plans the long-term economical aspects. In administrative matters, the Chief of Defence has the authority to form or disband any unit below Brigade level and to make any necessary reorganization to the command structure of the Defence Forces, unless such changes have wide impacts on the Finnish society, on the financies of the state or on the personnel of the Defence Forces[1]. In command matters, the Chief of Defence has the authority to make any command decision that is not reserved to the President of Finland.[2] In matters reserved to the Minister of Defence or to the President of Finland, the Chief of Defence prepares the decision and introduces his proposal to the Minister or to the President.

The immediate subordinates of the Chief of Defence are [3]

The Chief of Defence is elected by the President of Finland on the nomination of the Finnish Council of State and may be asked to retire whenever a reason occurs. However, since 1972, all Chiefs of Defence have retired only after fulfilling the statutory retirement age of 63.

List of Finnish Chiefs of Defence

  • Supreme Commander of the forces of the Republic of Finland (Suomen tasavallan joukkojen ylipäällikkö)
  • Commander of the Finnish Army (Suomen armeijan päällikkö)
    • General Major Karl Fredrik Wilkman (January 1-June 19, 1919)
    • General Major Kaarlo Edward Kivekäs (June 20–September 11, 1919)
  • Field Marshal (Finland), later Marshal of Finland C. G. E. Mannerheim (October 17, 1939–January 12, 1945, also Supreme Commander from November 20, 1939)
  • General of the Infantry* Erik Heinrichs (January 12–July 1, 1945)
  • Lieutenant General Jarl Lundqvist (July 2, 1945–June 3, 1946)
  • General of the Infantry* Aarne Sihvo (June 4, 1946–May 31, 1953)
  • General of the Infantry* Kaarlo Heiskanen (June 1, 1953–October 28, 1959)
  • General of the Infantry* Sakari Simelius (October 29, 1959–November 12, 1965)
  • General of the Infantry* Yrjö Keinonen (November 13, 1965–April 30, 1969)
  • General Kaarlo Leinonen (May 1, 1969–March 14, 1974)
  • General Lauri Sutela (March 15, 1974–October 11, 1983)
  • General Jaakko Valtanen (October 12, 1983–February 28, 1990)
  • Admiral Jan Klenberg (March 1, 1990–October 31, 1994)
  • General Gustav Hägglund (November 1, 1994–June 3, 2001)
  • Admiral Juhani Kaskeala (June 4, 2001-2009)
  • General Ari Puheloinen (August 1, 2009-)

(*) The service branch included in the ranks of General of the Infantry (jalkaväenkenraali) and Jaeger Colonel (jääkärieversti) are honorary and do not affect seniority.


  1. ^ Laki puolustusvoimista. (551/2007) §29. Retrieved 30-10-2008. (Finnish)
  2. ^ Laki puolustusvoimista. (551/2007) §£30, 33. Retrieved 30-10-2008. (Finnish)
  3. ^ Tasavallan presidentin asetus toimivallan jaosta sotilaskäskyasioissa (1089/2007) § 2. Retrieved 30-10-2008. (Finnish)

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