The icy north wind brings with it the roar of 150 steel birds, deployed by NATO, echoing in the vicinity of Russian territory.
Finland’s Baptism of Fire: The Arctic Challenge Exercise 23
In a thrilling debut after joining the NATO alliance, Finland has hosted Arctic Challenge Exercise 23, one of Europe’s biggest air exercises, just a breath away from the Russian bear.
Beginning on May 29 and ending with yesterday’s moon, this gigantic aerial dance has unfurled its deadly dance over the Baltic, especially in the unfathomable northern regions of Sweden.
Now in its sixth incarnation, this biannual event has been choreographed by the Nordic trio: Finland, Sweden, and Norway. The Finnish Air Force, on this occasion, has led the way in planning and executing this symphony of air power.
More than 150 titans of the air, from fighters to transport planes, have been brought together by 13 NATO member nations and Sweden to take part in this ferocious aerial dance. Headliners in this symphony include the stealthy F-35 Lighting II, the battle-hardened F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the JAS-39 Gripen, the F/A-18 Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, among many others.
In a brilliant display, fifth-generation F-35 Lighting IIs have led the front, with several aircraft fielded by Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States. The silent hunter sneaks into the Nordic sky, exemplifying the technological and military prowess of the alliance.
Leaving behind centuries of neutrality, Sweden seeks to join the NATO chorus along with Finland in response to Russia’s belligerent actions in Ukraine. The last procedure for Stockholm will be the approval of Turkey to finally join this transatlantic military symphony.
War Lessons: Russia and the Complexity of Air Operations
Aerial operations with multiple steel birds taking to the skies simultaneously are no easy tasks. Swedish Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jorgen Axelsson highlights the invaluable opportunity that these large-scale exercises represent to train, plan and evaluate together with different countries.
Russia, on the other hand, has shown limited competence in carrying out highly complex aerial maneuvers. This weakness has been reflected in its inability to secure air dominance over Ukraine, seriously restricting the operations of its ground machinery.
By contrast, NATO allies, led by the United States, have shown overwhelming dominance in complex air operations. One example was during the First Gulf War when thousands of Allied Steel Birds were simultaneously moving in the sky.
The NATO Air Force: An art in constant perfection
The art of aerial warfare is not bought off the shelf. It requires rigorous training in realistic situations, where crews and aircraft are fine-tuned for complex air operations and hone their effectiveness in the air theater of war.
Like a snake that sharpens its fangs, NATO exercises like Arctic Challenge Exercise 23 represent a display of the constant evolution and adaptability of this powerful military alliance. A melody that does not stop, with a clear message for whoever wants to listen: we are ready.