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Home NATIONALU.S. jet fighters to train in Finland in May
Tue, 09 Feb, 2016 01:05:06 AM
FTimes- Xinhua Report, Feb 9

American F-15 aircraft will be training in Finland in May, the Finnish Air Force Command confirmed on Monday. It would be the first time that U.S. fighters use a Finnish base for training purposes.

The Finnish Air Force told Finnish national broadcaster Yle that the U.S. aircraft will participate in training with the Finnish Air Force over the skies of Eastern and Northern Finland for two weeks. The American aircraft will be unarmed while in Finland.

U.S. fighters will come from the Oregon Air National Guard, which is part of the reserve of the U.S. Air Force. Oregon Air National Guard units have been deployed outside North America in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Local commentators noted the planned U.S. presence has not been mentioned in a Finnish Air Force training calendar that was published recently. Defence officials had told Yle the event had been omitted as "it is of small size." Yle quoted several sources saying that there will be 70-100 U.S. personnel at the Rissala base and six to eight F-15 aircraft.

Yle noted that the upcoming joint exercise has the Finnish political blessing now as the plan has been approved in the governmental foreign and security policy meeting where the Finnish president is present.

Over a year ago Finnish and Swedish fighters joined U.S. aircraft in exercises over the Gulf of Bothnia, between Finland and Sweden. Then U.S. aircraft relied on a base in Estonia or bases elsewhere in Europe. At that time the news aroused both domestic and international attention as there was initial uncertainty about the nature of the actual invitation from the United States to take part in the exercise.

"The exercise will comprise" normal daily routines of a Finnish fighter squadron that will also incorporate aircraft from a visiting unit, Lt Col Aki Heikkinen from the Air Force Command told Yle.

Finland is using U.S. made Hornet F18s. Rissala, near Kuopio, Eastern Finland, is one of their home bases.

Meanwhile, Defence Ministry official Mika Varvikko described the US as "the most important bilateral companion" of the Finnish Air Force. He told Yle it is in the interest of Finland that practical co-operation remains active.

Finnish officials said that in the parts of the training over Northern Finland, aircraft from Swedish and Norwegian air forces are also likely to participate.

While Finland used Soviet made Mig-21 fighters from 1960s until early 1990s, Rissala was the base for the Migs. A Mig-21 stood as a memorial at the gates of the air field until 2010, but was later removed. 

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