U.S. Air Force to refuel Finnish fighter jets up north

The training exercise this week is part of ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Finland, which is not a member of NATO.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - February 8, 2021
F/A-18 Hornets and a KC-135 Stratotanker. (U.S. Air Force via The Independent Barents Observer)

The U.S. and Finnish air forces are set to train together on mid-air refueling in the Arctic this week.

An American KC-135 Stratotanker will fly in from British Mildenhall air base and train mid-air fueling of F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets from Finland’s three air bases in Rovaniemi, Rissala and Pirkkala.

Air refueling exercises are part of the Finnish Air Forces’ international training with partner countries, according to the Finnish Defense Forces. The goal is to maintain Finnish pilots air refueling qualifications.

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The exercise takes place from Feb. 9-10 in the skies above the northern Finnish cities of Rovaniemi, Oulu, Kuusamo and Kajaani.

Finland and the United States in 2016 signed a bilateral defense cooperation pact pledging closer collaboration on military issues. The two countries have for years had joint military air force drills, also in cooperation with neighboring Sweden and Norway in the north.

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Despite an extensive cooperation, Finland is not NATO member, but maintain close partnership and has contributed to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and in the Balkans.

U.S. Marines have also participated in winter exercises together with the Jaeger Brigade in northernmost Finland.