Finnish Air Force / Ilmavoimat
Finland became independent on the 6th of December 1917. It fought two wars against Soviet demands and finally reached an armastice with the Soviet Union. From that moment Finland maintained a position of neutrality in international affairs. Under the 1947 Peace Treaty, its Armed Forces were limited in both equipment and personal strength.
In the aftermath of World War II, following the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949 and throughout the Cold War, Finland maintained a position of neutrality in the face of its often complicated relations with the Soviet Union.
The possibility of membership became a topic of debate in the country after the end of the Cold War and following the country's accession to NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme and the European Union (EU) in the mid-1990s. However, public support for NATO accession remained low.
The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine marked a turning point in the debate, and swung public opinion in favour of NATO membership and on 4 April 2023, Finland officially became a member of the NATO.
The Air Force was formed on 6 March 1918 and currently is a small but surprisingly well-trained force. It is also backed by an efficient aircraft industry. The latest example is the assembly at Finavitec of the newest fighter (Hornet) in the Finnish inventory. Ilmavoimat's first-line units used to form three Lennostot or Wings, each being assigned to an Air Defence Area; Lapin Lennosto in Lapland (North), Satakunnan Lennosto in Satakunta (West) and Karjalan Lennosto in Finnish Karelia (East). In June 2014 the first line units were reduced to two wings, HävLLv 21 at Tampere/Pirrkala was disbanded.
On 10 december 2021, the Finnish government authorised the Finnish Defense Forces Logistics Department to enter a procurement agreement with the United States for acquiring the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II as a replacement for the ageing F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet. The first Lightning IIs are expected to be delivered to Finland in 2026. The Hornets will be replaced between 2028 and 2030.
Operating alongside the first-line units are a Training Wing, a Liaison Squadron and a Test Squadron, which operates various aircraft on loan from other units. The basic flying unit is the Lentolaivue or Air Squadron, of which there are two kinds; Hävittäjälentolaivue - HävLLv - or fighter squadron and Tukilentolaivue - TukiLLv - or liaison squadron. Each comprises several Flights.
As from 2006, all Hawk training aircraft were transferred from individual bases to Kauhava, where they formed the newly established HävLLv 41. By the end of 2014, the Hawks were flown to Tikkakoski were the Air Force Acadamy is located. Kauhava airfield and garrison were handed over to a new private owner. New pilots start with the basic education in Tikkakoski on the Grob G115E and will then go on to the Phase Two training syllabus on the Hawk. After graduation the more specific fighter pilot training will be executed with one of the first-line fighter squadrons.
Maavoimat / Finnish Army
In January 1997 the helicopters of the former Kuljetuslentolaivue - KuljLLv - or transport squadron were transferred to the army (Maavoimat). The flying unit was named HekoLtue or Helicopter flight of the Utti Jägerregiment (Utin Jääkärirykmentti). In January 2001 the flight was renamed Helikopteripataljoona - HeKop - or Helicopter Battalion.
The Battalion consists of two companies which are numbered 1.HK and 2.HK (Helikopterikomppannia) operating the NH90-TTH respectively the H500D/MD500E.
Finnish serial numbers consist of a two-letter prefix identifying the aircraft type and a sequential number of up to three digits. For the latest type of first-line aircraft and helicopters the first digit represents the specific aircraft in a sequential order: NH-2xx for the NH90, HW-3xx for the Hawk, HN-4xx for the Hornet and JF-5xx for the Lightning II.
TukiLLv Lj35 LJ-2 visited Maatsricht/Achen airport on 7 May 2021. The type is already in service with the Finnish Air Force since September 1982. (Arjen Sleeuwenhoek)
The Finnish aerial demonstration team Midnight Hawks operate a number of Hawks. Harrie Kraaijeveld photographed HW-341 adorned with 40 years Hawk markings at RAF Fairford. (16 July 2022)