Like the rest of Europe, Finland had embarked on an emergency rearmament programme in the late 1930’s. Both Bristol Blenheim I’s and Fokker D.XXI’s had been purchased directly from the manufacturers, with licence production starting after. But still by the time of the Soviet invasion in November 1939 the Soviet air force outnumbered the Finns by a factor of 6:1. Against the background of the Phoney War, foreign nations came to the aid of the Finns, with Swedes providing an armed wing of volunteers, and France gifting Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters, while the British supplied Gloster Gauntlet II’s and Gladiators II’s from storage and sold Bristol Blenheim IV’s. By February 50 Fiat G.50 fighters arrived from Italy to replace the outdated Glosters, and an order of Brewster Buffalo’s arrived in March. By the time of the Finno-Soviet armistice to end the Winter War, for all of the Soviets numerical superiority the Finnish Air Force had inflicted loses at a rate of 4:1.
Finland had also attempted to upgrade its army. An order for 32 Vickers 6-ton Type E and F tanks had been placed in 1936. They were to be delivered without turrets or equipment, with local Finnish industry providing the completion work. Only 26 vehicles had been delivered before the start of the Winter War, and none of those were battle-ready, and by the end of December 1939 only 10 main guns had been built.
However by February 1940 13 tanks were ready to be deployed for the first Finnish massed tank battle, with an attack planned against Soviet armour and infantry at Honkaniemi. The battle went badly for the Finns, as 5 of their 13 tanks were lost to mechanical failures before their starting point had even been reached. Six of the attacking Finnish tanks were destroyed by Soviet fire, while claiming only 3 Soviet tanks, and the Finnish attack was repulsed. The Finns were only able to use their armour in an ad hoc fashion for the remainder of the Winter War.
Finland ended up with a significant stock of captured Soviet vehicles and armour from the Winter War. Although most were damaged beyond economic repair, they became a source of parts and spares to build a working tank force. Even the remaining Vickers 6-ton Tanks were re-equipped with ex-Soviet guns and optics, to become a new Finnish vehicle the T-26E (for English). These new chimeric vehicles joined mainly refurbished T-26’s, themselves a licence-built Soviet version of the Vickers tank, and 2 larger T-28’s to become the new Finnish tank corps.
In addition to combat aircraft, Finland also received civil gifts for their war effort against the Soviets, including a Beechcraft C17L gifted from the Broderne Dahls A/S of Denmark, which was taken into the Finnish military as a liaison aircraft.
Understanding that the armistice was only a temporary reprieve from foreign aggression, the Finns continued with their rearmament plans. France supplied Caudron C.714 fighters, but these had only been sent because they were fundamentally flawed, and the Finns likewise found them unsuitable. In addition more modern Hawker Hurricane I’s and Westland Lysander I and II aircraft were purchased from Britain.
Sales had been agreed to with the Netherlands for Fokker G.I fighters and T.VIII floatplane/bombers, but the German invasion of the Netherlands had put a temporary hold on those deliveries. With the German armistice Fokker recommenced production of the T.VIII, but the G.I production line was not restarted for export production. The Finn’s had been offered three engine choices for their T.VIII’s, and had chosen option C – Bristol Mercury IX. The Finnish T.VIIIw/C aircraft were also enlarged from the standard model and came with the ability to transition between floats, wheels and skis.
With no Dutch G.I’s available, Finland instead became a customer for the Danish production of G.I’s, the Flyverkorpsets IV R. However the Danes took several months from the Armistice to start their production, and the aircraft were only delivered at the end of 1940. As an interim measure, the Danish also sold to Finland their remaining fleet of 6 Fokker D.XXI’s that had survived the German invasion, and were now rendered surplus as Denmark de-militarised itself.
The Dutch manufacturer De Schelde demonstrated their S.21 single seat fighter to the Finnish military purchasing commission while they were reviewing Fokker. The potential of an uncomplicated single-seat ground attack capable interceptor was not lost on the Finns and an order was signed for 10 aircraft.
In addition Finland had captured several Soviet aircraft types during the Winter War. The largest were 8 Tupolev SB bombers that had been repaired after forced landings in Finnish territory. After Finnish overhaul they were delivered to the Finnish air force from August 1940, where they were deployed as maritime patrol and attack aircraft.
Finland then ended up with a very diverse fleet of modern combat aircraft, which became problematic for training and support.
With the withdrawal of German troops from the Low Countries, the Focke-Wulf Condors airliners impressed into the Luftwaffe were demobbed. The two KB-1 Condors were returned to airliner configuration and delivered to their original customer, Aero O/Y. Originally intended to support the expected influx of attendees for the 1940 Olympic Games, instead the aircraft consolidated the inter-Scandinavian lines of communication established in response to Soviet aggression. Finland also expressed interest in the lower capacity Focke-Wulf Fw206 “mini-Condor”, although no purchase agreement was made.