F-16 fighter jets flying wing-by-wing with a P3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Less aircraft in cross-border Arctic Challenge Exercise

The bi-annual fighter jets drill in the skies above northern Finland, Norway and Sweden, normally the largest in western Europe, is scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
May 27, 2021


70 aircraft, mainly fighter jets, will take-off from four airports and train for two weeks across the northern regions, June 7-18.

Conducted every second year since 2013, the Arctic Challenge Exercise is part of the Nordic military cooperation NORDEFCO. In addition, planes from Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom and the USA will take part, Finland’s Air Force informs

From Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi, northern Finland, 10 German Eurofighters and two US KC-135 aerial refuelling aircraft will operate in addition to 12 of the Finnish Air Force own F/A-18 Hornet.

Norway’s F-16s, participating in the biannual exercise for the last time, will fly out of Bodø air base, while the newer F-35s will fly from Ørland air base in southern Norway. This is the first time F-35s will join.

Norwegian Air Force leads this year’s exercise.

For surveillance of the air space a NATO AWACS plane will participate.

In both 2017 and 2019, more than 100 aircraft took part in Arctic Challenge, but due to coronavirus pandemic, the number of planes is reduced to about 70. Also original number of participants is reduced for the same reason.


The objective of the exercise is to train participating forces to conduct dissimilar aircraft combat in large composite air operations (COMAO) safely and effectively. The exercise aims to develop air combat techniques and tactics between dissimilar aircraft. By utilising the CBT concept, interoperability as well as providing and receiving host nation support will also be developed.

The participating Swedish airport is Kallax in Luleå. 

A Norwegian F-16 at Bodø Main Air Station in 2015, last time Norway was the lead nation for the fighter exercise Arctic Challenge Exercise. Photo: Thorbjørn Kjosvold




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