Finnish Air Force in joint NATO Baltic airspace exercise over Estonia
Finnish Air Force (FAF) pilots took part in a joint NATO exercise over Estonia and the Baltic States region this week, flying out of Ämari Air Base, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reports.
Finnish military pilots were last on exercise in Estonia in 2019, but this time the visit was in the context of recent progress made in the application to join NATO made by Estonia's northern neighbor in May last year.
As to the scope for the FAF holding the Baltic Air Policing Mission in Estonia in future and once in NATO, Finland's Ambassador to Estonia, Vesa Vasara told AK that: "These decisions get made jointly in Brussels. SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe – currently Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli-ed.) plays an important role here."
"This idea that Finland could take on the defense of the Baltic States does not get planned here, either in Estonia or in Finland," Ambassador Vasara – speaking in fluent Estonian – added.
In any case, on Wednesday, the FAF joined jets and personnel from France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S., rehearsing ground defense scenarios, with one side taking on the role of the enemy.
Scottish Wing Commander Scott MacCall, from Britain's RAF, told AK that: "There will be two sides practically simulating an air war. Some of the aircraft will be simulating attempting to hit some ground targets, and the other side will be trying to stop them do that."
"At the same time, there will be an air war conducted trying to control the airspace over all three Baltic States," MacCall went on.
Planes were deployed from Šiauliai, Lithuania, which also hosts the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission, and from airfields in Poland, Germany and even as far afield as the U.K.
Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Hachmeister , who commands the Luftwaffe contingent, said: "The exercise is scheduled for /…/ one-and-a-half hours, but we need a little bit more time, so if we start the refueling before the mission, then all aircraft are filled up with a lot of fuel, that they're going to use during the exercise, then they will fight for one to one-and-a-half hours, then the fuel will be over, and they will return to their bases."
From Ämari alone, the complement was four Finnish McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets (pictured), and four Eurofighters, two apiece from the RAF and the Luftwaffe.
Aerial tankers were also involved, AK reported.
While Finland's NATO membership ratification has made massive steps forward in recent days, after the final two holdouts, Turkey and Hungary essentially gave the go-ahead, Sweden's application is still being stalled.
In any case, both countries have long been cooperating in defense areas with NATO states, while the Finnish air force was on a joint exercise with the RAF as recently as last week.
The FAF has previously exercised closely with NATO air forces, most recently with six fighter jets in Great Britain last week.
The original AK slot (in Estonian and English) is here.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'