Written by Colonel A. Nazarenko; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review #9 2019, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The Finnish Air Force, as the most combat-ready type of armed forces, is designed to repel aerial aggression, to provide air defence for the most important state and industrial facilities and groups of troops (forces), to provide aviation support for other types of armed forces and clans of troops, as well as to perform tasks as part of multinational air groups in international crisis resolution operations.
The main tasks of the Finnish Air Force are:
To ensure military security:
- protection of the country’s airspace;
- maintaining the necessary level of combat and mobilisation readiness, as well as training units at a level that ensures timely response against aggression from the air;
- organisation and conduct of operational and combat training.
To repel an armed attack:
- gaining air supremacy in the conduct of military operations by the armed forces;
- providing air defence for important military facilities, administrative and industrial centres of the country;
- air support for ground forces and the Navy, covering them from the air;
- conducting visual, radio and electronic intelligence:
- airlift of personnel and cargo in the interest of the armed forces;
- securing major air bases as well as rapid deployment of advanced airfields:
- suppression of radio-electronic means of the enemy;
- aviation support for search and rescue operations on the territory of the country and in the Baltic Sea.
In peacekeeping and peace restoration operations:
- providing aviation support to national contingents engaged in international operations;
- deployment of advanced air bases in a conflict zone;
- delivery of humanitarian aid to the civilian population and their evacuation from the conflict zone.
Force Commander, who is responsible for the combat and mobilisation readiness of subordinate units and divisions, the organisation of training of flight and technical personnel, the maintenance of weapons and military equipment in combat readiness, logistics, as well as operational management of forces and means in peacetime, in a threatened period and in wartime.
In peacetime, four air bases are used to house the aircraft. If necessary, civilian airfields or specially equipped sections of highways can be used by the Air Force.
Thus, there are more than 70 airfields on the territory of the country, where regular international and regional passenger flights are carried out.
Fifteen replacement airfields on road sections are also equipped and maintained in readiness.
The Finnish Air Force has: a headquarters (Tikkakoski, 250km north of Helsinki), two fighter wings: Karelia Air Command (Kuoio, 400 km north-east of Helsinki) and Lapland Air Command (Rovaniemi, 700 km north of Helsinki; Satakunta Air Command – auxiliary aviation wing (Pirkkala, 160 km north-west of Helsinki); Research and Intelligence centre (Tikkakoski); Air Force Academy (Tikkakoski).
In service are: combat aircraft, about 60 units and more than 130 auxiliary aircraft. The number of personnel is about three thousand people.
The fighter wing is the main tactical unit designed to provide air defences in conjunction with air defence units of the national land forces, train personnel, form an aviation reserve, maintain aircraft equipment and airfield network in combat readiness and create material reserves.
The Karjala fighter wing is responsible for the south-eastern part of Finland, while the Lapland fighter wing is responsible for the northern part (Oulu and Lapland provinces).
Each of them consists of a headquarters, a fighter-bomber aviation squadron, an air space control and flight control centre, an airfield support company, aircraft repair shops, communications technology centres and logistics.
The fighter-bomber aviation squadron is the main tactical unit that includes two combat links and a communication link. The F/A-18C/D Hornet multi-purpose fighters are in service.
The Satakunta auxiliary aviation wing is responsible for solving military transport and intelligence tasks (transportation of personnel and cargo, mapping, communications, R&D, etc.). The light multi-purpose military transport aircraft “Learje-35A/5” are in service, as well as the tactical military transport aircraft Casa S-395M and the communication aircraft PC-12NG mmTus.
The Air Force Research and Intelligence Centre conducts a package of measures to improve flight performance and maintenance of the F/A-18C/D Hornet aircraft.
The military aviation school provides the initial training for aircrews and ground service specialist, as well as practical training for aircrews. Organisationally, it includes a training centre, a training battalion, the 41st combat training aircraft squadron, an airfield and logistics support unit, as well as an orchestra.
Recruitment of Air Force personnel is carried out on the basis of conscription in accordance with the law on general military duty (military support units), as well as by recruiting individuals on a voluntary basis (flight technical personnel).
Recruits are called up twice a year. As a rule, the term of military service in the Air Force is up to one year.
The pilot training system consists of four stages.
During the first stage, conscripts serve 12 months on a Valmet L-70 Vinka training aircraft.
The second stage – admission to the military aviation school, the study term is three years. In the first year, the flight time of the cadet should be up to 60 hours on the Valmet L-70 Vinka aircraft.
As part of the third stage (second and third year of study) flight training continues on the combat-capable trainer “Hawk”.
During the fourth stage, there is a division into combat units, where pilots continue training on Hawk aircraft during the year. Following its results, military pilots may be appointed as both fighter pilots or auxiliary pilots.
Operational and combat training of the Finnish Air Force is aimed at improving the coherence of management bodies, units and division, improving the professional skills of the Air Force personnel taking into account the challenges and threats, guaranteed fulfillment of tasks to ensure the military security of Finland, new trends in the nature of armed struggle, as well as ways of action and operational purposes of groups of troops.
The main focus in the course of comprehensive years but tactical training, inspections of combat readiness of units and the day to day combat training activities is devoted to the development of mobilisation deployment and combat use of units in accordance with the views of the military and political leadership of the country to possible threats to national security and ways of waging war in modern conditions.
As part of the reform of the Finnish Armed Forces, an important area is the modernisation of aviation equipment, as well as the adoption of new weapons of destruction. So, by the end of 2019, it is planned to complete the modernisation of the Hawk MK51/MD51A at the Finnish plants of the “Patria” concern in order to extend their service life.
At the same time, the F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters will be modified to use the purchased AGM-158 JASSM air-to-ground missiles, which will allow the use of weapons against ground targets at a range of up to 370 km.
In addition, the Finnish Ministry of Defence intends to replace the F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters in 2025-2030. Respective requests for tactical, technical, operational and cost characteristics of the Typhoon, F-35 Lightning, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (USA), Rafale (France) and the Jas-39 Grippen (Sweden) were sent to BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Dassault Aviation and Saab.
The country’s leadership plans to organise a tender this year and sign a contract in 2021. New aircraft are expected to arrive in 2023. Its initial operational readiness is expected to be reached in 2027, and fully by 2030.
In total, Finland will buy up to 60 aircraft with a total cost of about 10 billion euros. The most likely choice is the American fifth-generation tactical fighter F-35, which, according to Finnish experts, meets more the requirements of versatility and is able to meet the level of development of aviation technology for the period up to 2060.
In general, the Finnish Air Force is a modern, well-equipped, trained and staffed type of Armed Forces that has sufficient combat potential to ensure national security. In the near future, with the adoption of new weapons of aviation destruction, modernisation and updating the aircraft fleet of fighters, the Air Force’s capabilities will increase significantly. At the same time, the implementation of the Finnish army reform plans demonstrates Helsinki’s desire to bring the weapons, military and special equipment of the national Air Force in line with NATO standards.