The Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) is considered the largest allied air exercise in Europe in terms of number of participating aircraft and training areas.
ACE is conducted every second year since 2013, this year is the fifth of its kind organised together by Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Arctic Challenge 2021 (ACE 21), from 7 to 18 June 2021, was led by the Luftforsvaret (RNoAF, Royal Norwegian Air Force) who were responsible for planning and direction of the training event. This year, Denmark contributed to the planning stage of the exercise. The air bases used in ACE 21 were Bodø and Ørland in Norway, Luleå/Kallax in Sweden, and Rovaniemi in Finland.
The objective of the exercise is to train participating forces to conduct Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Training (DACT) in large composite air operations (COMAO) safely and effectively. The participating units focused on offensive and defensive scenarios consisting of air-to-air missions (air defence) and air-to-ground missions including suppression of enemy air defences, air to ground strike missions and close air support.
Flight operations were conducted during both weeks from Monday to Friday, with two daily waves flown across Europe’s largest training area above Norway, Finland and Sweden, totalling around 120 missions. Blue and Red air force units opposed each other and were closely monitored. Next to this participating units also practiced air refuelling missions and they were exposed to radio and radar jamming whilst practicing ground and surface target strike missions. There was not only the threat from the Red air forces, but also from Norwegian, German and US air defence units that were grouped in northern Sweden.
Participating units in ACE 21 were:
Luftforsvaret (RNoAF, Royal Norwegian Air Force)
331 skvadron (Bodø) with F-16AM/BM
332 skvadron (Ørland) with F-35A Lightning II
FEKS/717 skvadron (Oslo/Gardermoen) with Falcon 20ECM
Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force)
HävLLv 11 (Rovaniemi) with F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet
HävLLv 41 (temporary based at Rovaniemi) with BAE Hawk Mk51/51A
TukiLLv (Tampere/Pirkkala) with C295M
Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force)
F21 Norrbottens Flygflottilj (Luleå/Kallax) with JAS39C/D Gripen
Flyvevåbnet (RDAF, Royal Danish Air Force)
Esk 727 (temporary based at Bodø) with F-16AM
Luftwaffe (GAF, German Air Force)
Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31 (temporary based at Rovaniemi) with EF2000/EF2000(T)
US Air Force (USAF)
480th Fighter Squadron Warhawks (temporary based at Luleå/Kallax) with F-16CM/F-16DM
AFRC 756th ARS (temporary based at Rovaniemi) with KC-135R
United States Marine Corps (USMC)
VMFA-115 Silver Eagles (temporary based at Kuopio/Rissala) with F/A-18C/D Hornet
Royal Air Force (RAF)
6th Squadron (Lossiemouth) with Typhoon FGR4
NAEW&CF (Geilenkirchen) with E-3A
Photos by Luftforsvaret, Ilmavoimat, Flygvapnet and Luftwaffe