The Finnish Air Force has again achieved the same status as NATOs tactical fighter units, as the only non-NATO member in the world. During the last week of September the Finnish Air Force’s expeditionary unit convinced a NATO team of 100 evaluators at Rissala base in Kuopio.
It means that in times of crisis Finland can integrate its alert fighter force flying the F/A-18 Hornet directly into NATO’s operations, based on the alliance’s so-called TACEVAL (Tactical Evaluation) program. The evaluation showed that the expeditionary unit – designated the Finnish Air Force Rapid Deployment Unit Fighter Squadron, or FRDFFSQN – is ready to fight. The unit normally holds a 60-day readiness.
The personnel of the expeditionary unit was recruited among the Finnish Defence Forces active-duty personnel and reservists. A number of conscripts also participated in training for a range of tasks with the Force Protection Flight and Logistics Flight.
The Finnish Air Force expeditionary unit has experienced the NATO evaluation once before. It was in 2009 when the unit passed the evaluation process as the first non-NATO air force unit. The final evaluation took place in Germany. Finland is still the only non-NATO country which has a fully capable fighter unit verified by the TACEVAL program.
See Finnish F/A-18 Hornets with RNoAF F-16s and Swedish Gripens
The next model of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter/strike aircraft ends its second month of existence with the Boeing and Northrop Grumman companies in St. Louis. The so-called Advanced Super Hornet is probably the last attempt to sell a concept originally developed in the late 1970s by McDonnell Douglas.
In August test pilots took the Advanced Super Hornet, which is in fact a F/A-18E with loads of extra gimmicks, through 21 flight tests from St. Louis and NAS Patuxent River to see if the upgraded aircraft would do well.
The Advanced Super Hornet has conformal fuel tanks (CFT), which gives the aircraft an additional combat radius of 130 nautical miles (240 km) to be able to strike within a radius of 700 nautical miles (1296 km), meaning loaded with weapons it can hurt the enemy a bit further than before. An enclosed weapons pod (EWP) gives the aircraft a lower radar profile if the other external hardpoints are not used. Boeing and Grumman, together with GE Aviation and Raytheon, still work on Infrared Search and Track, a better engine and a totally new cockpit.
Boeing hopes to interest potential customers to directly order the Advanced Super Hornet upgrade, or buy the additional Christmas package for one’s existing F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet. According to its manufacturer the new stuff will get the old Super Hornet into the advanced 2030s air war.
Three nations, 64 combat aircraft in the air at a time, the air forces of five countries and 2000 personnel. That is Arctic Challenge. Red Flag Scandinavian Style is being held for the first time from September 16 to September 27, 2013, in Sweden, Norway and Finland.
In total 90 aircraft will be deployed during ACE13 – nice abbreviation by the way – if one includes tanker and support aircraft. Pilots will train in co-ordinated combat tactics and procedures. The scenario is a peace enforcing operation with UN mandate.
The exercise is being conducted from four airbases: F21 Luleå-Kallax in Sweden, Bodø and Ørland in Norway and Lapin Lennosto i Rovaniemi, Finland. Operations are being directed from Bodø.
Every day two missions are flown. The morning ops are done in three different areas, one in Norway, one in Sweden and one in Finland. The afternoon program is solely executed in the vast training area of Northern Sweden, from Lycksele in the south to Kiruna in the north.
Contributing countries/units and airplanes are the 211, 212, 171 Air Combat divisions and 22 JAS 39 Gripen of the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet), F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, F-18C/D of the Finnish Air Force, Royal Air Force Typhoons and 30 F-15s of the US Air Force in Europe (USAFE; both F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle).
The Royal Navy warship HMS Dragon, Royal Air Force Typhoons, US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet and US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles have put their skills and technology to the test during a recent joint exercise.
The goal was to detect, classify and monitor contacts on the sea’s surface in the challenging conditions of the Gulf. The Type 45 destroyer provides a complementary service to the highly manoeuvrable and effective Typhoon fast jet combat aircraft.
One of Dragon’s fighter controllers, Lieutenant Francis Heritage, said: “We received the help of a United States Air Force Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, aircraft to cue our fighters onto their targets. The JSTARS surface radar is incredibly powerful. When combined with our own organic sensors and those of the jets under our control, we can provide force protection over a massive area.”
The American surveillance jet fed information directly into Dragon’s operations room, allowing the destroyer to cue fighter jets onto their objectives. HMS Dragon is in the second half of her inaugural deployment, which is a mix of carrying out maritime security operations with the UK’s Gulf partners and contributing to the wider air defence of the region, such as when she joined forces with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group a few weeks ago.
In 2011 Cambrai hosted the 50th NATO Tigermeet. Because of this anniversary and the fact that this French airbase was due to close the Tigermeet provided a last opportunity to visit Cambrai while still at operational status.