On a summer morning over the forests of Finland, the U.S. Air Force’s chief general flew in the backseat of an F/A-18 Hornet, watching a Finnish pilot conducting an air defense training program.
The singular experience, which capped off Chief of Employees Gen. Dave Goldfein’s first trip to Finland July 14 and 15, underlined the deepening ties between the U.S. and Finnish armies.
U.S. and Finnish delegates who spoke during the trip could not point to another instance of the service’s chief general flying in a Finnish fighter. And while such flights aren’t unusual among the U.S. Air Force and its closest partners, Finland is not a part of NATO.
The fight played like a textbook encounter in a defensive counter-air mission, Goldfein stated, commending the “distinctive” quality of the Finnish pilots.
Goldfein’s pilot flew in a two-jet formation against four other jets. The fighter was tasked with stopping the enemy from bombing a vital target. The visit allowed the U.S. general to see Finnish techniques in action, hear communications across the radio, and note how the Finnish pilot utilized radar and data links.
In the meantime, Russia despatched a message of its own, sending a heavy aviator, fighter and airborne early warning and control plane to points in international airspace around Finland.
A spokesperson for the Finnish air force said Goldfein’s aircraft was not on quick response alert duty; however, couldn’t explain on which base had mixed aircraft for the intercept.
In its tweets, the Russian ministry of defense acknowledged that the Tu-160 bombers had accomplished a planned seven-hour flight over the Baltic Sea in international airspace on Monday. At particular stages of the route, the Russian jet was followed by Danish air force F-16s, Finnish F/A-18s, and Swedish Gripen fighter air crafts.