Nordic fighter jet exercises kicks off inside Arctic Circle

Flying out from Rovaniemi Air Base, the Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish pilots will conduct combat training with a variety of different fighter types.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - August 31, 2021
Nordic countries take to the skies with F/A-18, JAS 39 and F-16 flying wing-by-wing. (Finnish Air Force)

Nordic countries are conducting a joint exercise in Arctic airspace this week, just two weeks before Russian armed forces launch the large-scale Zapad-21 (West 21) exercise.

The Exercise Arctic Fighter Meet 21 is part of a defense cooperation with Norway, Finland and Sweden.

With flights from August 30 to September 3, the Nordic fighter jets will work together in the skies over Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region.

“During the exercise, the fighters will deploy flares, which may be seen as momentary bright spots of light in the sky,” the Finnish Air Forces said in a statement.

Sweden is participating with JAS 39 Gripen from Kallax Air Base in Luleå, while Norwegian F-16s are flying from Bodø. Finland’s Air Force operates the F/A-18 and Hawk jet trainers.

Norway’s new F-35 fighter jets will also begin conducting a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) drill starting on Sept. 1, 2021. (Norwegian Armed Forces)

As the Nordic exercise is happening from Rovaniemi, Norway’s new F-35 fighter jets will for the first time conduct a Quick Reaction Alert drill from northern Norway’s Evenes airport, starting on September 1.

Named Falcon Deploy, the exercise that includes eight F-35 jets will go on for two weeks, the Norwegian Air Force said in a statement. From January 1 of next year, a pair of F-35s will be permanently deployed for QRA missions at Evenes. The fighter jets are scrambled when Russian military planes are flying near Norwegian areas of interest in the north.

Located north of the Arctic Circle, Evenes is also the airport where Norway’s new fleet of P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will be based.