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Finland to deploy fighters for first time to NATO's air policing missions

Finland is to send eight Hornet combat aircraft to NATO's Southern Air Policing mission from 3 June to 31 July. (Finnish Air Force)

Finland is to send combat aircraft to NATO's Southern Air Policing mission, marking the first out-of-area operational deployment for the Nordic country since joining the alliance.

The Finnish Ministry of Defence (MoD) made the announcement on 2 February, saying the deployment of eight Finnish Air Force (FinAF) Boeing F/A-18 Hornet combat aircraft to Romania is part of a wider raft of NATO tasking outlined for the country's armed forces for 2024.

“Participation of the Finnish Air Force fighter detachment in NATO air policing in Romania, Bulgaria, and the Black Sea would take place between 3 June and 31 July 2024. The maximum size of the [detachment] would be eight fighters, and about 70–100 people,” the MoD said.

Launched as part of NATO's enhanced Air Policing (eAP) package, the Southern Air Policing mission sees allied aircraft operate out of Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base in Romania and Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Bulgaria, alongside Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons and MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum' combat aircraft of the two national air forces respectively.

Further to the Southern eAP being flown in response to Russian actions in Ukraine, NATO also conducts alliance air policing over Albania, the Baltic region, Iceland, North Macedonia, Slovenia, and the BENELUX countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Controlled by Headquarters Air Command (HQ AIRCOM) located in Ramstein, Germany, the eAP missions are directed by one of two combined air operation centres (CAOCs). The missions based north of an imaginary line that transects Europe along the Alps are directed by the CAOC at Uedem in Germany, while those located south of this line (to include the Finnish Hornets) are directed by the CAOC at Torrejón in Spain.

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