Tag Archives: Finnish Air Force

Of old Hornets and Frenchies

The Royal Australian Air Force this week bade farewell to the F-18A/B, early Hornet models they have flown since the mid-1980s.

Via the RAAF:

After more than 30 years, and nearly 408,000 total fleet flying hours, the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet flew over Australia for the last time. Up to 12 aircraft departed RAAF Base Tindal on a final sortie over Darwin and the Northern Territory; before proceeding to Queensland.

The remaining aircraft arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown, their final destination, where Air Force held an end of era event on November 29. Since 1985, Air Force operated 71 F/A-18A/B Hornets at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal with the fleet now being retired and replaced with the F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

The RAAF also released an excellent “jet only” raw footage reel of the Hornet at work, sans any overdub or background music, which is great!

In other “F-35 as Hornet replacement” news

The Finnish Defense Force seems to have downselected the F-35 over the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Aviation Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Saab Gripen E to replace their early generation C/D model Hornets.

Switzerland made a similar choice earlier this year.

In the past, Finnish Hornet drivers on exchange tours with the U.S. Navy have even pulled down carrier quals.

180317-N-FK070-0120 ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 17, 2018) Finnish Air Force Capt. Juha Jarvinen lands an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Sharpshooters of Marine Strike Fighter Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). This marks the first time a Finnish pilot has performed an arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/Released)

 

Rafale finally gets some love

Meanwhile, the French Navy is celebrating 20 years of operating the only nuclear-powered CATOBAR carrier in history that wasn’t on the U.S. Naval List. The 45,000-ton Charles de Gaulle (R91) is the flagship of the Marine Nationale and, while ordered in 1986 to replace the smaller, conventionally-powered Clemenceau and Foch, was not commissioned until 2001, with her first deployment being to Afghanistan as part of Operation Heracles in December.

Originally intended to fly F-8E (FN) Crusaders– the only other country to use the American “gunfighter” from a flattop- and Falklands-proven Super Étendards, De Gaulle soon switched to an all-Rafale M airwing augmented by E-2C Hawkeye AEWs and a few Panther/Caiman helicopters for CSAR/ASW work. The French Navy currently runs four squadrons of Rafale M F3-Rs, totaling around 40 active airframes. The Royal Navy cries over that one, for sure, as they will likely never operate that many British F-35s at any one time from their carriers.

Interestingly, De Gaulle can also accommodate F-18s, as the U.S. Navy has often done cross-decking with both Hornets and C-2 Greyhounds, the COD version of the Hawkeyes sans frisbee. In goose and gander terms, both USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS George H.W. Bush have embarked Rafale dets in 2008 and 2018, respectively, and the French strike fighter is the only foreign type currently cleared to operate on U.S. cats and traps.

Speaking of Rafales

In related news, the United Arab Emirates Air Force just placed a big $18 billion order for 80 Rafale F4 fighters, making them the largest non-French customer. Smaller orders have been placed by Croatia, Egypt, Greece, India, and Qatar in the past decade, but the UAE tender is the biggest to date. Canada, Indonesia, Iraq, Ukraine, and Spain, among others, are still looking at the plane.

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.

Finnish Brewster-239 BW-354 over Lake Tikshozero 1942

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.

180317-N-FK070-0120 ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 17, 2018) Finnish Air Force Capt. Juha Jarvinen lands an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Sharpshooters of Marine Strike Fighter Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). This marks the first time a Finnish pilot has performed an arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/Released)

From the Navy:

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.”

180317-N-FK070-0221 ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 17, 2018) U.S. Marine Corps. Capt. Michael Humiston congratulates Finnish Air Force Capt. Juha Jarvinen upon completion of an arrested landing of an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Sharpshooters of Marine Strike Fighter Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). This marks the first time a Finish pilot has performed and arrested gear landing aboard an aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/Released)

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)

Others use land arrestors for the F-18 as wel, behold in the Great North:

CF18 Demo Hornet testing out the arrestor cable system at 19 Wing Comox, B.C April 2018