Sisu and the art of good carrier traps
The Ilmavoimat, or Finnish Air Force, has its roots in the old Imperial Russian Army’s air corps and sprang to life 100 years ago this month at the country’s independence from the failing old Empire, using both inherited Tsarist and donated Swedish crews and aircraft. The small but hearty force has earned a solid reputation fighting first the Reds in 1918 and later the Soviets in the 1939-40 Winter War (using such quaintly obsolete aircraft as Brewster Buffalos, Bristol Bulldogs, Fokker D.XXIs, and Gloster Gladiators) and WWII, which, as they largely just fought the Soviets again, they termed “The Continuation War.”
The Finns, even with a tiny air corps and beat-up planes chalked up nearly 100 aces in WWII, including “Illu” Ilmari Eino Ilmari Juutilainen, the highest (non-German) ace of the war.
The Cold War saw an uneasy peace between the great neighbor to the East with a shared border that kept Treaty-limited Finn aviators at peak readiness while the country was forced to buy from MiGs from Moscow as an act of good faith (augmented by double-delta Drakens from neutral Sweden) rather than Western fighters.
That changed when the Cold War thawed and Finland promptly purchased 64 F-18C/Ds to replace their dated Soviet and Swedish fast movers in 1995 and haven’t looked back. Today, though their Hornets have 20+ years on their airframes, the 55 F-18s still in service with the Ilmavoimat are being constantly updated and the pilots are, in historic Finn fashion, top notch.
Proof being this week when Ilmavoimat Capt. Juha “Stallion” Jrvinen preformed an arrested landing in a borrowed F-18C on the Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). The Finn is currently attached to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 to become qualified as a pilot instructor. It was the first documented Finnish Air Force carrier trap.
To successfully land an F/A-18C on an aircraft carrier, pilots must hook on to one of four wires located on the flight deck. The goal is to catch the third wire, giving pilots the best and safest chance to land.
When Jrvinen was asked about his landing aboard Abraham Lincoln, his face lit up as he reflected on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It was pretty intense,” said Jrvinen. “I was extremely happy because I knew I actually caught the wire when I felt the sensation of rapidly slowing down, but at the same time I was a little disappointed because I caught the second wire and not the third.”
Jrvinen is a part of the first pilot exchange between the United States Marine Corps and the Finnish Airforce. He was hand-selected for the program by his superiors for his work ethic. Flying in the Finnish Air Force for 15 years and instructing for the last five, he has earned every qualification available as a Finnish pilot.
For those who wonder about safety issues here, Jrvinen was put through all the same carrier landing practice events that Marine aviators go through and the Finns regularly use tailhooks and arresting gear on their our Hornets– though without a flattop. They have land-based runway fitted with catch wires where pilots practice regularly. Why? Because just in case the balloon goes up and the airstrips are taken out first, the Finns are ready to operate from roadways with a movable container catch wire systems.
Check it out below on an Ilmavoimat F-18D (at about the 1-minute mark)