Finland concludes AAR exercise with the USAF

For the second time this year, Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets from the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) have concluded an air-to-air refuelling (AAR) exercise with the US Air Force (USAF).

The event began on September 7 and concluded on September 9. During the three-day exercise – hosted by the Finnish Air Force’s Karelia Air Command – the legacy Hornets conducted a number of training flights with a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker from the USAF’s 100th Air Refueling Wing (ARW), which is based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.

Finnish F/A-18C flies alongside USAF KC-135 [Suomen Ilmavoimat]
A Finnish Air Force-operated Boeing F/A-18C Hornet - serial HN-449 - flies alongside a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker from the USAF's 100th ARW during an air-to-air refuelling training mission. Suomen Ilmavoimat

The KC-135R was operated from RAF Mildenhall for the duration of the event, while the F/A-18C/D Hornets were flown out of Finland’s Rissala, Rovaniemi and Pirkkala air bases. The daily AAR training flights took place in Finnish airspace, in an area near the settlements of Rovaniemi, Kuusamo, Kajaani and Oulu.

Finland conducts an AAR training exercise with the USAF twice a year. It comes as part of the Finnish Defence Force’s international training and exercise plan, which is approved by the nation’s Ministry of Defence. The last edition of the event took place in February 2021 and the overall objective of the exercise is to provide Finnish fighter pilots with AAR proficiency and currency training opportunities, which are required as part of their training syllabus.

The Finnish Air Force does not have its own domestic AAR capability, meaning that it relies on its tanker-equipped allies and partners – such as the USAF – to provide these training opportunities and to support any long-range deployments undertaken by the Finnish Hornets.