Four French Mirage 2000-5 flew up to the Baltic Sea region from their home base at Luxueil – northeast of Dijon – where they participated in the drills and, subsequently, deployed to Šiauliai Air Base where they will take up NATO Air Policing duties from December on.
Four Finnish F/A-18 fighters were also refueled during manoeuvres with Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jets. Flying in from Rissala Air Base, Karelia Air Wing, some 400 nautical miles away from the training area, the Finnish demonstrated their range capability enabling combined support to air operations. “Without refueling, we would not have been able to support this training event as effectively as needed,” said ‘BOWNER’, leader of the Finnish F/A-18s during the activity. “We were coming and returning a long way, but – thanks to air-to-air refueling – still able to provide 60-minute playtime to act as simulated intruders who had to be engaged by our Swedish colleagues,” he added.
The Finnish and Swedish fighter jets regularly fly with Allied fighters deployed in the region to further enhance cooperation and exploit synergies during these combined flying drills. This time, it was the French tanker, the Mirage 2000-5 and Italian Eurofighters who added to the complexity of the training that aids establishing routine tactics, techniques and procedures and honing interoperability among aircrew.
The combination of the French Mirage 2000-5 deployment flight for NATO’s enduring Air Policing mission and the participation in this routine multinational training event demonstrates the members’ commitment to the Alliance – both in training and real-world operations.
“Finland – the latest member of the Alliance – and Sweden – member-in-waiting – have long been active players in Baltic security,” said Group Captain Michael Carver, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff at Allied Air Command. “For many years, they have participated in exercises and training events scheduled by Allied Air Command and they are closely connected with other regional Allies. We can all benefit tremendously from these regular, highly valuable opportunities that make us stronger together,” he concluded.