U.S. Air Force trained refueling over northern Finland
Rattled by Russia’s military build-up and hostile rhetoric towards Europe, Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto together with his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde this week met with NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussel.
The three discussed security troubles and ongoing tensions, not only on Russia’s border to Ukraine but also the challenges in the Baltic Sea region.
Finland doesn’t plan to join NATO, but keeps the membership question open and has since 1994 had a close partnership deal with the alliance. The country’s armed forces are regularly training with NATO member states, especially in north European regions.
At the same time as minister Haavisto talked cooperation with secretary-general Stoltenberg at the NATO headquarters, Finnish F/A-18 Hornet multi-purpose fighters trained refueling with a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker.
The exercise to place from 24 to 27 January in over the skies between Oulu, Rovaniemi, Kajaani and Kuusamo in the northern region of Finland, the Air Force informed.
The fighter jets operated out of Finland’s three airbases, Rovaniemi, Rissala and Pirkkala, and were coordinated by Squadron 11 in Rovaniemi. Also the U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker was flying in from the British Mildenhall airbase, while the air refueling machine was based at the Rovaniemi base.
Like its western neighbor Norway, the Finnish Air Force does not have its own tanker plane to conduct aerial refueling.
In December last year, Finland announced its decision to buy 64 new F-35A fighters to replace the current fleet of F/A-18.
Finland’s armed forces will participate in the Norwegian-led NATO exercise Cold Response taking place in northern Norway in March and early April. The exercise will be the largest NATO has held inside the Arctic Circle since the 1980ties.