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Commander of the IAF, Major General Ido Nehoshtan with Commander of the Finnish Air Force, Lieutenant General Jarmo Lindberg In an exclusive interview with the IAF site, Lieutenant General Jarmo Lindberg, Commander of the Finnish Air Force, talks about the cooperation between the two countries, the future combat airplanes to arrive and mainly answers the most important question: What exactly does the Finnish Air Force do?

Tal Michael and Karen Tocatly

If the first question that comes to your mind is “What does the Finnish Air Force have to do in Israel? It will actually be more appropriate to ask why at all is there a Finnish Air Force in Northern Europe, where most countries are neutral. “Finland’s Air Force hasn’t taken part in real-world operations for decades”, says Lieutenant General Jarmo Lindberg, Commander of the Finnish Air Force. Since World War II, the force has been trying to avoid unnecessary battles. “Today, we are cooperating with the European Union, NATO and the UN. Though there are Finnish combat units in Afghanistan they aren’t units of the air force. We’re trying to avoid politics and participate in international training exercises and humanitarian aid”.

Though the Finnish Air Force owns the advanced ‘F-18 Hornet’, most of its activities focus entirely on civil domain. “At the end of the day, our main goal is to protect the Finnish skies, not necessarily by using force. For example, the volcanic explosion in Iceland made us work extra hours. Immediately after the eruption, several ‘BAE HAWK’ airplanes were sent to the scene in order to clear the haze under very difficult conditions”. Forces of nature, on the other hand, proceeded to strike Finland after the explosion. Last August, a powerful storm ruined thousands of acres of trees across the country and caused major losses. The military was rushed for immediate help. “The storm ruined many forests and groves. Using special equipments installed on our airplanes, we managed to scan the areas to look for civilians who might need help”.

Only in Israel

And why visit Israel? Lieutenant General Lindberg claims that it is difficult to find a reality that is as severe as Israel’s. “You are dealing with a very complicated reality and must get through rough situations. The pilot training in Israel is different than in other countries and we would be happy to obtain knowledge from you. We are also using this opportunity to look into innovative Israeli technologies as we look toward the future”.

The Finnish Air Force is definitely awaiting the future and are examining, as are many other countries, the future generation of combat aircrafts. “Nowadays, we’re using F-18 combat airplanes which are expected to be phased out by 2025. We are now waiting for additional people to test out the new airplanes, so that we can join in the future and learn from the people who’ve operate them. When the year comes we will be able to make a wise decision based on the knowledge we have gained”.

The Commander of the Finnish Air Force toured the Israeli state during his week-long visit. He got to visit the different units of the IAF, such as the “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ unit of Palmachim airbase. While visiting Ramat- David airbase, he met with Commander of the Base and flew in the backseat of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. Later, Lieutenant General Lindberg was lead on a tour of an Iron Dome battery alongside the Commander of Aerial Defense.