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Ruska 17: Finland and Sweden train to fight side by side

The Finnish Air Force, Ilmavoimat, has begun it’s largest exercise of the year, the Ruska 17, today. Exercise focuses on training an integrated air-defense force to fight against an unnamed peer-level adversary. It involves everything from base security and logistics to the advanced command centers and fighter jets.

Finnish F/A-18C and Swedish JAS 39C (photo: Ilmavoimat)

The Ruska 17 will include roughly 5100 conscripts, reservists and professional soldiers, 30 Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters, 14 BAE Hawk trainers, CASA C-295M transports, Pilatus PC-12NG and Learjet 35 A/S liaison aircrafts from the Finnish Air Force. Additionally the Finnish army will provide some troops and an unspecified number of the NH-90 helicopters.

Most Air Force reservists don't actually fly (photo: Ilmavoimat)

The Swedish Air Force is participating in the annual RUSKA-series of exercises for the second time. In 2016 Swedes operated as an aggressor unit and the two air forces fought each others over the skies of Finland. This year, for the very first time, Swedish Flygvapnet joins the Finnish Ilmavoimat and both train together to defend the Finnish airspace against a hostile air force. Earlier this year the Finnish air force, together with the army and navy, participated in the Swedish Aurora17 exercise.

The Swedish Air Force brings its Saab JAS 39C Gripens to the fight. While the Gripen is an extremely capable aircraft and the sheer number of the fighters Sweden can provide, will allow a much wider fighter coverage than what would be possible with only the 64 Finnish Hornets, the real force multiplier Sweden brings to the table is the Saab 340B AEW&C Aircraft.

Saab 340B with erieye radar (photo: Saab)
The Saab 340B and its Erieye AESA radar can provide information about enemy movements over 400 km away. The enhanced situational awareness gives a defending air force significantly more time to scramble and position it’s fighters for an intercept. The Erieye is a capability that Finland desperately needs, but can’t afford to buy in the foreseeable future.

Both the Finnish and Swedish aircraft will operate from dispersed airfields and at least one road base. The Vieremä road base was established during the Baana 17 exercise last week. Here is a cockpit video from a BAE Hawk doing a touch and go on a highway.



This dispersed fighting style has been a trademark of the Ilmavoimat since the 1930’s and the Flygvapnet has also employed it extensively. Operating so close to a hostile force, that has the ability to attack the air bases with cruise and ballistic missiles it’s imperative to use all available means to enhance the survivability of the combat aircraft and the vital support systems.

The Finnish Air Force has also just sent a request for information (RFI) to seven nations regarding the weapon systems for the successor of the F/A-18 Hornet. At the moment it seems that the competition for the new fighter is on schedule and the air defense of Finland will continue to improve in the future.


Disclaimer: This exercise was scheduled over a year ago and all neighboring nations have been informed about the training area and participating units well before the drill started. Very much unlike the Russian snap drills happening nearly weekly.

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