Over Sixty Aircraft from NATO Members and Partners Training Together in Exercise Arctic Challenge

Four U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles on their way to Arctic Challenge exerciseFrom U.S. Air Force:  The first-ever Exercise Arctic Challenge, which includes more than 60 aircraft from five partner nations, here began Sept. 16.

Norwegian F-16 Fighting Falcons, Swedish JAS-39 Gripens, Finnish F/A-18 Hornets and U.K. Eurofighter Typhoons took to the skies with U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, F-15C Eagles and KC-135 Stratotankers to train in a combined environment. They incorporated both strategic planning and tactical war fighting simulations, practicing in-flight maneuvers and communication strategies with each other.

Two NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft also joined in to provided aerial combat command for the dueling aircraft further simulating a real combat scenario.

“[Our] air force has, in periods, had the need to train at bigger scenarios with more aircraft, and this is difficult in Norway, with only our own planes at [our] disposal,” said Col. Baid Solheim, Main Air Station Bodø base commander. “Before the cross border training we had to deploy to foreign, far away countries to fly against other types of aircraft, [now] we fly directly from Bodø. In this way it’s very efficient in costs. . . .”

The Arctic Challenge exercise is scheduled to continue until Sept. 26, before culminating in a final scenario which tests the pilots on their ability to operate in a diverse force.

From NORDEFCO:  The air exercise is part of the Cross Border operations between Finland, Sweden and Norway expanding over the national boundaries. The goal is to enhance Nordic cooperation in the field of defence under NORDEFCO and develop capabilities for combined operations. . . .

The exercise has been planned and will be directed and carried out in cooperation between Finland, Sweden and Norway. The United States and Great Britain will act in the roles of training partners.

Flight activity takes place in the airspace of Finland, Sweden and Norway 16 to 20 September and 23 to 26 September from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. Aircraft mainly operate over Northern Sweden but they also fly over the Gulf of Bothnia and in the airspace of Finland and Sweden. In addition, air activity can be observed in the extreme northwest of Finland and in the vicinity of Bodø in Norway.

The exercise bases are located in Rovaniemi in Finland, Kallax in Sweden and Bodø and Ørland in Norway. The Swedish detachment will be deployed to Rovaniemi base whereas part of the FINAF F/A-18 Hornet fleet will fly from Bodø. Oulu airport in Oulunsalo is the alternate operating base.

The exercise is performed under the direction of Commander of Norrbotten Wing 21 of the Swedish Air Force. The FINAF flight detachment is led by Lapland Air Command Commander Colonel Harri Leppälaakso.

Image: Four U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles on their way to Arctic Challenge exercise (photo: 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard/USAF)