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Finland hosts ‘Arctic Challenge Exercise’ with NATO allies

An AugustaWestland Apache attack helicopter of the British Army Air Corps is seen in the air during the NATO Spring Storm military exercises in Tapa, Estonia on May 20, 2023. (File photo by AFP)

Finland has kicked off a military air exercise involving over a dozen NATO allies and a total of 150 aircraft, only weeks after it joined the US-led military alliance.

The Arctic Challenge Exercise involves 3,000 soldiers and fighter jets from 14 nations, 12 of which NATO members. The maneuvers will go on for virtually two weeks.

The exercise started with simulations of defensive operations to protect airspace from attackers, with offensive elements such as air-to-ground attacks introduced later on, according to Colonel Henrik Elo from the Finnish Air Force.

The fighter-jet training event will be held in Rovaniemi and Pirkkala in Finland, Lulea in Sweden and Orland in Norway.

Aside from the three Nordic hosts, Denmark, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States will also participate.

NATO's Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft (AWACS), capable of monitoring an area almost as big as Poland, will also participate in the exercise.

“We currently have the first big rotation underway," Colonel Elo said. “As the exercise progresses, the scenarios get progressively more difficult.”

“This is the biggest one of these exercises organized so far.”

The colonel said being able to “coordinate with our NATO allies and partners on the performance of the different equipment is really significant.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also due to travel to Finland this week, according to the State Department.

Finland joined NATO in April, bringing with it a trained, active armed force of about 30,000 with a wartime strength of 280,000 into the bloc.

The Nordic country shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia.


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