While Russian Air Force jets started another round of live fire exercises, this time only about 80 km (50 miles) or less from the border with Finland, the Finnish Air Force says its increasing its airspace surveillance.
The Western Military District of Russia launched exercise Ladoga 2014 on 21 March 2014, with about 50 combat pilots using live weapons on the ranges of the banks of Lake Ladoga. Nearby Karelia Besovets Airbase will host the exercise, with aircraft having flown in from other bases in the Murmansk, Tver and Kursk regions, according to a Russian Ministry of Defence press release.
Involved in the air combat operations are Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29SMTs (Fulcrum), MiG-31BMs (Foxhound) and Sukhoi Su-27s (Flanker). For many young pilots the exercise is part of their qualification training for alert duty once they return to their regular units.
Finnish Air Force
Meanwhile the Finnish Air Force has increased its surveillance of its airspace. Especially in the Karelian area, according to unit commander Col. Ossi Sivén to the Finnish national broadcasting company Yle. “Military planes in nearby areas east and south of Finland are flying in different ways and in different directions than usual, we should be ready if something unusual happens.”
The nearest Finnish airbase, Utti, only has NH90TTH and MD500E/H500D helicopters. The best defensive air assets come from HävLLv 31 at Kuopio/Rissala Airbase further north and HävLLv 21 at Tampere/Pirkkala further west, both units flying Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-18C/D Hornet fighters. However, if the increased surveillance only comes from ground based radar and detection stations or actually from the Hornets is unclear. As many air forces the Finnish is also short on cash due to budget restrains.
Sources: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation / Yle / Finnish Air Force with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger
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