The Finnish Air Force (FINAF) stages at its Pirkkala base from 2 to 8 May an exercise during which the service’s Hornet pilots are trained on air-to-air refueling (AAR).
Trainees are flight instructors and fully mission qualified aircrew members from the FINAF’s Satakunta, Lapland, and Karelia Air Commands. The first batch consists of pilots slated to take up positions in the FINAF’s expeditionary unit.
The training objective is to create within the FINAF a pool of pilots qualified to participate in international operations as part of a combined air component on a separate decision following the guidelines laid down in the Government Report on Security and Defense Policy 2004. This requires AAR capability among other novel demands.
Training sorties are conducted using a total of twelve Boeing F-18 Hornets, while the number of technical personnel involved in the exercise is about twenty. The tanker is a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker of the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) based with the 100th Air Refueling Wing at Mildenhall, Britain. Most sorties will be flown in airspace to the north of Tampere.
Training is sourced from the USAFE within the framework of the Foreign Military Sales program sponsored by the United States Goverment. The services to be provided will enable Finnish pilots to qualify for AAR and maintain their qualifications between 2009 and 2011. In addition to this spring’s exercise in Pirkkala, two ab-initio training events are planned for this period. The ability thus attained will be maintained during combined air exercises.
The provisions of the contract also allow the use of AAR assets outside the Finnish territory to meet various requirements such as ferry and positioning flights.
Finnish pilots have been trained for AAR since the early 2000s in conjunction with combined exercises in Finland’s airspace.