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Air Force (Ilmavoimat)

The peacetime missions of the air force (Ilmavoimat) were the patrolling of Finnish air space and the surveillance, identification, and interception of intruding aircraft. In an average year, ten to twenty violations of Finnish air space were detected. If conflict developed in the region, the air force would have the tasks of preserving territorial integrity, preventing overflight of hostile planes and missiles, preventing Finnish territory from being used as a base for attack, and supporting army and navy operations.

The 1947 Peace Treaty of Paris imposed restrictions compelled Finland to focus on armaments for the Army, although this was not a great disadvantage since under no circumstances could the defence of non-aligned Finland be based primarily on the Air Force and the Navy. The peace treaty of Paris, signed on 10 February 1947, restricted the Finnish Air Force, including any naval air arm, to 60 aircraft, including reserves, with a total personnel strength of 3,000. Bombers with internal bomb-carrying facilities are expressly forbidden. The Finnish Government declared unilaterally in September 1990 that the military restrictions of the Peace Treaty of Paris from 1947 were no longer regarded as valid. The references to Germany in the agreement from 1947 were obsolete.

The protection of Finnish air space in the event of East-West hostilities was considered a highly salient aspect of the air force role. The possibility that Finnish air space would be violated on the flight paths of bombers and cruise missiles of NATO and Warsaw Pact forces was an issue of intense concern. As of 1988, Finland was in the process of acquiring further capability to detect, to intercept, and to destroy cruise missiles crossing Finnish territory.

To fulfill these missions, Finland had given priority in the late 1970s to the upgrading of its interceptor and reconnaissance capabilities. Its three combat air squadrons were equipped with Soviet MiG-21bis and Swedish Saab J-35 Draken fighters. The forty-seven Hawk Mk-51s purchased from Britain for advanced training and reconnaissance were not counted as combat aircraft under the limits prescribed by the 1947 peace treaty, but they could be fitted with racks for bombs, rockets, and missiles for use as light attack aircraft. Air force transport capability was limited, consisting primarily of three Dutch F-27 Fokkers and six Soviet Mi-8 helicopters.

Air force headquarters was located at Tikkakoski in central Finland. The country was divided into three air defense regions. Each air defense region was the operational zone of an air wing, functioning in coordination with the corresponding military areas. Each of the three command centers was individually responsible for its regional air defense, based on directives issued by the air staff. One fighter squadron was assigned to each wing, but the necessary basing and support infrastructure was in place to enable the air force commander to concentrate all air force resources in a single region if necessary.

As of 1988, the Lapland wing, consisting of eighteen Drakens, was based at the joint civilian-military airfield near Rovaniemi; the wing's headquarters were in a nearby hardened shelter complex. The Satakunta wing, with twelve Drakens based at Tampere-Pirkkala, was responsible for southwestern Finland. All of the wing's command facilities, workshops, and aircraft shelters were hardened, having been blasted out of granite cliffs. Defense of southeastern Finland came under the Karelian wing, which had a squadron of thirty MiG-21bis plus several Hawks for training and patrol duties, operating from Kuopio-Rissala. All three wings had facilities in place permitting the use of alternative military and civilian airfields, as well as prepared highway strips.

In addition to the three combat squadrons based at wing headquarters, the transport squadron was based at Kouvola-Utti and the training squadron was based at Luonetjarvi, adjacent to the flying school at Kauhava. Primary air surveillance was carried out by a fixed long-range radar system supplemented by mobile low-altitude radar, fixed in peacetime, but transportable to concealed, hardened sites in wartime. The civilian air control network was also closely linked to the military system. Automatic long-range radar, ordered in 1988 from the French firm of Thomson-CSF, will be installed at six or seven sites, including one in the far north at Kaamanen that will extend surveillance over the Arctic Ocean and the Kola Peninsula.

Flight training was conducted at the Air Force Academy at Kauhava. The Valmet L-70 Vinka was used for primary training (forty-five hours of flight time). Students then made the transition to jet training on the Hawk (100 hours of flight time), preceded by considerable practice on flight simulators. An intermediate trainer was not considered necessary. Conversion to the Draken or the MiG-21 and advanced tactical training were carried out after assignment to the fighter squadrons. A fully qualified interceptor pilot underwent a total of seven years of preparation. More pilots were being trained than Finland needed for its existing combat aircraft. Moreover, basing and logistical facilities were sufficient for about three times as many combat aircraft as were in the peacetime inventory.

The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) introduced into service the first new medium range air defence radar. It was handed over to the Air Force after careful acceptance tests and test runs in mid-December 2012. The new medium range radar designated the KEVA2010 in the FDF is the French-manufactured Thales Ground Master 403. The purchase was decided in 2009, and up to now 12 radars have been delivered to Finland. The production of the radar was started in France in 2008, and Finland is among the first countries to bring this new radar type into use. Also the French Armed Forces, the Federal Defence Forces of Germany and the Canadian Armed Forces have selected the Ground Master. The procurement of the KEVA2010 was partly implemented together with the Estonian Ministry of Defence because in connection with this purchase two radars were delivered to Estonia.

Completed in 2016, the Hornets Mid-Life Update 1 and 2 upgraded the Hornet's air combat capability, redesigned and procured end-of-life machine performance, and introduced the air-to-ground machine originally designed as a multi-tasker. As an indication of this, the Finnish Hornets' type designation F / A-18 was accompanied by the letter "A", known from the United States of America as the aircraft's main practice for aircraft type.

With the help of air-to-ground capabilities, the Air Force prepares, in addition to combating fighter jets, to support its own and other branches of defense through the impact of long-range precision weapons.

While the Air Force was taking care of the Hornet's performance for the rest of its life cycle, the defense branch was also preparing for the post-life time of current MFDs. Launched in 2015, the HX Fighter Project aims to replace the performance of Hornets that will be decommissioned by 2025 with a multifunctional solution.

In June 2020 the Finnish air force command dropped the swastika from its logo without making an announcement. The air force had been using the symbol since 1918. Finland has changed the general staff ID and logo of its Air Force Command without making an announcement of the new logo. While the new logo is a golden eagle and a circle of wings, the old logo had a swastika a symbol deeply linked to Nazi Germany. Teivo Teivainen, an academic at the University of Helsinki, first observed the change. Finland's air force had been using the swastika since 1918.

While the air force had stopped using the swastika on its planes after World War II, the symbol featured on unit emblems, unit flags and uniforms. The spokesperson added that the logo of the Air Force Command and the Air Force service were made to match in January 2017 to a golden eagle and circle of wings, removing the swastika.

The swastika entered Finland's air force through a Swedish nobleman, Count Eric von Rosen. He had gifted a plane to the air force of Finland in 1918, with a blue swastika painted on it. Rosen used to consider the swastika a good luck charm. Subsequent planes in the Finnish air force continued to use the symbol, which eventually became associated with anti-Semitism after Hitler adopted the swastika for the Nazi party.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:06:00 ZULU