Hopeful NATO holds rare air exercises

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Finland prepares for flights from highways if its air bases are attacked

Finland’s Air Force has closed a major highway for the first time in decades to hold military exercises, with fighter planes using the road as a makeshift runway while the country’s armed forces conduct exercises for alleged threat from Russia.”

Finnish F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, as well as dozens of Hawk Mk training aircraft and other military aircraft, made takeoffs and landings at Joutsa road base in central Finland on Wednesday, the head of the Finnish Air Force Academy, Colonel Vesa Mantyla, told Reuters .

The Air Force shared footage of the exercises on social media, noting that the Hornets also participated in a “hot refuel” drill, in which a jet fighter with engines running is gassed to “quickly take off back into the sky.”

While Finland regularly conducts air exercises from its reserve road bases – which are scattered across the country to allow the army to disperse its troops in the event of an attack – the Joutsa base has not been used for decades, as it serves serves as the main road to Helsinki, the capital.

Colonel Mantyla said the bases are now… “in fairly good condition” and could be made operational within days, arguing that: “Russia’s threat or Russia’s actions with the cruise missiles and ballistic missiles” in Ukraine “proves the concept of distributed operations is correct.”

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Wednesday’s drills were held on a 2-kilometer stretch of highway and involved about 200 support workers, prompting hundreds of local residents to flock to the roadside to watch the event.

Along with neighboring Sweden, Finland applied to join the NATO alliance not long after Russia sent troops to Ukraine in late February, with most members quickly approving their membership requests. Turkey and Hungary are the only two states in the US-led military bloc that have yet to formally approve the accession of the two Nordic countries, leaving the process in a state of uncertainty as the alliance must unanimously ratify new members.





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