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Finnish Air Force


Finnish Air Force

Finnish Air Force

Finnish Air Force emblem
Active from 6 March 1918
(Army Corps of Aviation established)
4 May 1928
(independent service)
Country Finland
Role Air defence
Size 3,100 personnel, 38,000 personnel mobilized
Motto Qualitas Potentia Nostra
Quality is our Strength
Engagements Finnish Civil War
Winter War
Continuation War
Lapland War
Commander Major General Kim Jäämeri

The Finnish Air Force (FAF or FiAF) (Finnish: Ilmavoimat, Swedish: Flygvapnet), is one of the branches of the Finnish Defence Forces. Its peacetime tasks are airspace surveillance, identification flights, and production of readiness formations for wartime conditions.[1] As a separate branch of the military, the Finnish Air Force was founded on 4 May 1928, having existed officially since 6 March 1918 as the Army Corps of Aviation.[2]


  • History 1
    • The Finnish Civil War 1918 1.1
      • The air activity of the Reds 1.1.1
      • The air activity of the Whites 1.1.2
    • Winter War 1939–40 1.2
    • Continuation War 1941–44 1.3
    • After World War 2 1.4
  • Aircraft 2
    • Current inventory 2.1
  • Organization 3
    • Mobilized strength 3.1
  • Commanders 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The first steps in the history of Finnish aviation were taken with Russian aircraft. The Russian military had a number of early designs stationed in the country, which until the Russian Revolution of 1917 had been part of the Russian Empire. Soon after the declaration of independence the Haparanda on 25 February 1918 by Swedish pilots John-Allan Hygerth (who on March 10 became the first commander of the Finnish Air Force) and Per Svanbäck. The aircraft made a stop at Kokkola and had to make a forced landing in Jakobstad when its engine broke down. It was later given the Finnish Air Force designation F.2 ("F" coming from the Swedish word "Flygmaskin", meaning "aircraft").[3]

Swedish count Eric von Rosen gave the Finnish White government its second aircraft, a Thulin Typ D.[4] Its pilot, Lieutenant Nils Kindberg, flew the aircraft to Vaasa on 6 March 1918, carrying von Rosen as a passenger. As this gift ran counter to the will of the Swedish government, and no flight permit had been given, it resulted in Kindberg receiving a fine of 100 Swedish crowns for leaving the country without permission. This aircraft is considered by some to be the first aircraft of the Finnish Air Force, since the Finnish Air Force did not officially exist during the Civil War, and it was only the Red side who flew a few aircraft with the help of some Russian pilots. The von Rosen aircraft was given the designation F.1.[3] The Finnish Air Force is one of the oldest air forces of the world – the RAF was founded as the first independent branch on 1 April 1918 and the Swedish Flygvapnet in 1925.

Von Rosen had painted his personal good luck charm on the Thulin Typ D aircraft. This charm – a blue

  • Finnish Air Force
  • Pictures of Finnish Air Force aircraft at
  • Finnish Defence Forces: Presentation of equipment: Interceptor fighter

External links

  • Shores, Christopher (1969). Finnish Air Force, 1918–1968. Reading, Berkshire, UK: Osprey Publications Ltd.  
  1. ^ "Finnish Air Force today" (Web article). Finnish Air Force. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  2. ^ Shores 1969, p. 3.
  3. ^ a b Keskinen, Partonen, Stenman 2005.
  4. ^ A photograph of this plane can be found in the book by Shores 1969, p. 4.
  5. ^ Heinonen 1992.
  6. ^ a b "Armistice Agreement". Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  7. ^ "Finnish Air Force". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "Finnish Air Force History". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "WW2History-AirWarofContinuationWar.html". 2005-09-19. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  10. ^ Arter, David: Scandinavian politics today, Manchester University Press (1999), ISBN 0-7190-5133-9, p.254
  11. ^ "Avslöjande: Sverige lagrade jaktplan för finska piloter" (in Svenska). Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "World Air Forces 2015 pg. 15". Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "Aircraft of Finnish Air Force". Finnish Air Force. 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "Puolustusvoimat". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Satakunnan lennoston organisaatio. Satakunta Air Command. Retrieved 2008-12-22. (Finnish)
  16. ^ "Puolustusvoimat" (in Suomi). 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  17. ^ "Puolustusvoimat" (in Suomi). 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  18. ^ "Puolustusvoimat" (in Suomi). 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  19. ^ "Puolustusvoimat" (in Suomi). 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 


See also

Rank Name From To
Captain Carl Seber April 28, 1918 December 13, 1918
Lieutenant Colonel Torsten Aminoff December 14, 1918 January 9, 1919
Colonel Sixtus Hjelmmann January 10, 1919 October 25, 1920
Major Arne Somersalo October 26, 1920 February 2, 1926
Colonel Väinö Vuori February 2, 1926 September 7, 1932
Lieutenant General Jarl Lundqvist September 8, 1932 June 29, 1945
Lieutenant General Frans Helminen June 30, 1945 November 30, 1952
Lieutenant General Reino Artola December 1, 1952 December 5, 1958
Major General Fjalar Seeve December 6, 1958 September 12, 1964
Lieutenant General Reino Turkki September 13, 1964 December 4, 1968
Lieutenant General Eero Salmela February 7, 1969 April 21, 1975
Lieutenant General Rauno Meriö April 22, 1975 January 31, 1987
Lieutenant General Pertti Jokinen February 1, 1987 January 31, 1991
Lieutenant General Heikki Nikunen February 1, 1991 April 30, 1995
Major General Matti Ahola May 1, 1995 August 31, 1998
Lieutenant General Jouni Pystynen September 1, 1998 December 31, 2004
Lieutenant General Heikki Lyytinen January 1, 2005 July 31, 2008
Lieutenant General Jarmo Lindberg August 1, 2008 February 29, 2012
Major General Lauri Puranen March 1, 2012 March 31, 2014
Major General Kim Jäämeri April 1, 2014


Total of 38,000 personnel

  • 3 Fighter Squadrons F-18C/D
  • 1 Fighter Squadron Hawk
  • 6 Readiness bases
  • 1 Support Squadron
  • 7 Communications Flights

Mobilized strength

  • Training Air Wing (Kauhava, - 31 December 2013)[17]
    • Fighter Squadron 41 (Hävittäjälentolaivue 41, HävLLv 41): Hawk Mk 51/51A, 61
    • Training Center
      • Course Detail
      • Base Support Company
    • Logistics Center
    • Aircraft Workshop
    • C4I Workshop
  • Air Force Academy (Tikkakoski)[18]
    • Supporting Air Operations Squadron (TukiLLv)
    • Training Center
    • Training Battalion
    • Electronic Warfare Training Center
    • Air Force Band
    • Logistics Center
    • Guard Detail
    • C4I Workshop
    • Logistics Center
  • Air Force Materiel Command
  • Aircraft and Weapon Systems Training Wing (Halli - 31 December 2013)[19]
    • Course Detail
    • Training Detail
      • Training Company
      • Aircraft and weapon systems NCO school
    • Logistics Center
  • Finnish Intelligence Research Establishment, Tikkakoski
  • Karelian Air Command (Kuopio-Rissala)
    • Fighter Squadron 31 (Hävittäjälentolaivue 31, HävLLv 31)
      • 1st Flight: F-18C/D
      • 2nd Flight: F-18C/D
      • Communications Flight: Valmet Vinka, PC-12NG, Valmet L-90TP Redigo
    • 7th Sector Operations Center[16]
  • Headquarters (Tikkakoski)
  • C4I Materiel Command
  • Lapland Air Command (Rovaniemi)[14]
    • Fighter Squadron 11 (Hävittäjälentolaivue 11, HävLLv 11)
      • 1st Flight: F-18C/D
      • 2nd Flight: F-18C/D
      • Communications Flight: Valmet Vinka, PC-12NG, Valmet L-90TP Redigo
    • 5th Sector Operations Center
    • Base Support Company
    • C4I Workshop
    • Aircraft Workshop
  • Satakunta Air Command (Tampere-Pirkkala)[15]
    • Fighter Squadron 21 (Hävittäjälentolaivue 21, HävLLv 21)
      • 1st Flight: F-18C/D
      • 2nd Flight: F-18C/D
      • Communications Flight: Valmet Vinka, PC-12NG, Valmet L-90TP Redigo
    • 3rd Sector Operations Center
    • Aircraft Workshop
    • C4I Materiel Center
    • Logistics Center
    • Base Support Company

The Air Force is organised into three air commands, each of which operates a fighter squadron. In addition, the Air Force includes a number of other units:


Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F/A-18 United States multirole F/A-18C 55[12]
Electronic Warfare
CASA C-295 Spain electronic warfare 1[12]
Fokker F27 Netherlands transport 1[12]
CASA C-295 Spain transport 2[12]
PC-12 Switzerland transport / utility PC-12NG 6[12]
Learjet 35 United States transport 3[12]
Trainer Aircraft
F/A-18 United States conversion trainer F/A-18D 7[12]
BAE Hawk United Kingdom jet trainer Hawk 51A / 66 49 / 16[13]
Valmet Vinka Finland primary trainer 28[13]
the Finnish PC-12NG in flight
An F/A-18 from the Finnish Air Force

Current inventory


Today, the FAF is organized into three Air Defence Wings, each assigned to one of the three air defence areas into which Finland is divided. The main Wing bases are at Rovaniemi, Tampere and Kuopio-Rissala, each with one front-line squadron. Pilot training is undertaken at the Central Flying School, Kauhava, with advanced conversion performed at squadron level.

On September 22, 1990, a mere week before the unification of Germany, Finland declared that the limiting treaties were no longer active and that all the provisions of the Paris Peace Treaties were nullified. The signatory states abstained from diplomatic notes regarding the declaration, which thus confirmed the nullification.

During the Cold War years, Finland tried to balance its purchases between east, west and domestic producers. This led to a diverse inventory of Soviet, British, Swedish, French and Finnish aircraft. After leading Finnish politicians held unofficial talks with their Swedish counterparts, Sweden began storing surplus Saab 35 Drakens, which were to be transferred to Finland in the event of a war with the Soviet Union. These were kept until the 1980s.[11]

These revisions followed closely Soviet demands. When Britain tried to add some of their own (fearing that the provisions were there only to augment the Soviet air-defences) they were opposed by the Soviets. The revisions were again revised in 1963 and Finland was allowed to buy guided missiles and a few bombers that were used as target-tugs. The FAF also managed to find a loop-hole to strengthen the capacity by purchasing large numbers of two-seater aircraft, which counted as trainer aircraft and were not included in the revisions. These aircraft could have secondary roles.[10]

  • No more than 60 combat aircraft
  • No aircraft with internal bomb bays
  • No guided missiles or atomic weapons
  • No weaponry of German construction or with German parts
  • A personnel of maximum 3,000 persons
  • No offensive weapons

The end of World War II, and the Paris peace talks of 1947 brought with it some limitations to the FiAF. Among these were that the Finnish Air Force were to have:

A MiG-21 on display near Jätkäsaari.

After World War 2

According to Kalevi Keskinen's and Kari Stenman's book Aerial Victories 1–2", the Finnish Air Force shot down 1,621 Soviet aircraft while losing 210 of its own aircraft during the Continuation War.

The Finnish Air Force did not bomb any civilian targets during either war.[9] Curiously, overflying Soviet towns and bases was also forbidden, as to avoid any unneeded provocations and to spare equipment.

Finland was required to expel or intern remaining German forces as part of its peace agreement with the Soviets in mid-1944. As a result, the final air battles were against retreating Luftwaffe units.

While the FiAF was successful in its mission, the conditions were not easy. Spare parts for the FiAF planes were scarce — parts from the US (Buffalo & Hawk), Britain (Hurricanes), and Italy (G.50) were unavailable for much of the war. Repairs took often a long time, and the State Aircraft Factory was burdened with restoration/repair of Soviet war booty planes, foreign aircraft with many hours of flight time, and the development of indigenous Finnish fighter types. Also, one damaged bomber took up workshop space equalling three fighters.

Dornier Do 17s (received as a gift from Hermann Göring in 1942) and Junkers Ju 88s improved the bombing capability of the Finnish Air Force. The bomber force was also strengthened with a number of captured Soviet bombers, which had been taken in large numbers by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa. The bomber units flew assorted missions with varying results, but a large part of their time was spent in training, waiting to use their aircraft until the time required it. Thus the bomber squadrons of Flying Regiment 4 were ready for the summer battles of 1944, which included for example the Battle of Tali-Ihantala.

Finnish Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2s during the Continuation War.

The FiAF's main mission was to achieve air superiority over Finland and prevent Soviet air power from reinforcing their front lines. The fighter squadrons were very successful in the Finnish offensive of 1941. A stripped-down, more maneuverable, and significantly lightened version of the American Brewster B239 "Buffalo" was the FiAF's main fighter until 1943. Results with this fighter were very good, even though the type was considered to be a failure in the US Navy and with British Far East forces. In the Finnish use, the Brewster had a victory rate of 32:1 – 459 kills to 15 losses. German Bf 109s replaced the Brewster as the primary front-line fighter of the FiAF in 1943, though the Buffalos continued in secondary roles until the end of the wars. Other types, especially the Italian Fiat G.50 and Curtiss Hawk 75 also proved capable in the hands of well-trained Finnish pilots. Various Russian designs also saw action when lightly damaged "kills" were repaired and made airworthy.

The FiAF proved capable of holding its own in the upcoming battles with the Red Air Force: Older models, like the Fokker D.XXI and Gloster Gladiator, had been replaced with new aircraft in front-line combat units.

The Finnish Air Force was better prepared for the Continuation War. It had been considerably strengthened and consisted of some 550 aircraft, though many were considered second-rate and thus "exportable" by their countries of origin. Finland purchased a large number of aircraft during the Winter War, but few of those reached service during the short conflict. Politics also played a factor, since Hitler did not wish to antagonize the Soviet Union by allowing aircraft exports through German-controlled territory during the conflict. So in addition to Fokker fighters and Bristol Blenheim bombers built under license, new aircraft types were in place by the time hostilities with Soviet Union resumed in 1941. Small numbers of Hawker Hurricanes arrived from the United Kingdom, Morane-Saulnier M.S.406s from France, Fiat G.50s from Italy, and one liaison aircraft. Numerous Brewster B239s from the neutral USA strengthened the FiAF. A few dozen Curtiss Hawk 75s were captured by the Germans in France and Norway then sold to Finland when Germany began warming up its ties with Finland; Tupolev SB, Ilyushin DB-3 and Polikarpov I-153 were reconditioned for service.

Finnish Brewster Buffalos formation during the Continuation War.

Continuation War 1941–44

As a result of these tactics, the Finnish Air Force managed to shoot down 218 Soviet aircraft during the Winter War while losing only 47 to enemy fire. The Finnish anti-aircraft also had 314 confirmed downed enemy planes. 30 Soviet planes were captured – these were "kills" that landed more or less intact within Finland and were quickly repaired.

To make up for its weaknesses (few and obsolete fighters) the FiAF mainly focused on attacking enemy bombers from directions that were disadvantageous to the enemy. Soviet fighters were usually superior in firepower, speed and agility, and were to be avoided unless the enemy was in a disadvantageous position. A good example of the wisdom of this strategy was the surprise attack on the Immola air base in late February 1940 by some 40 Soviet fighters. The Finns were surprised during take off and lost seven planes, one Fokker D.XXI and six Gloster Gladiators.

Bristol Blenheim BL-129 of Finnish Air Force LeLv 44.

As the war progressed, the Finns tried desperately to purchase aircraft wherever there were any to be found. This policy resulted in a very diverse aircraft inventory, which was to cause some major logistical problems until the inventory became more standardized. The Finnish Air Force was to consist of numerous American, British, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Soviet, and Swedish designs. Other countries, like South Africa and Denmark, sent aircraft to assist in the Finnish war effort. Many of these purchases and gifts did not arrive until the end of the hostilities, but were to see action later during the Continuation and Lapland wars.

In order to prevent their aircraft from being destroyed on the ground, the Finns spread out their aircraft to many different airfields and hid them in the nearby forests. The Finns constructed many decoys and built shrapnel protection walls for the aircraft. Soviet air raids on Finnish airfields usually caused little or no damage as a result, and often resulted in interception of the attackers by the Finns as the bombers flew homeward.

At the beginning of the Winter War, the Finnish Air Force was equipped with only 17 bombers and 31 fighters. There were also 54 liaison aircraft but 20 of these were only used for messengers. The most modern aircraft in the Finnish arsenal were the British-designed Bristol Blenheim bombers that had been license-built in Finland. The primary fighter aircraft was the Fokker D.XXI, a cheap but maneuverable design with fabric-covered fuselage and fixed landing gear. On paper, this force should have been no match for the attacking Soviet Red Air Force. However, the Finnish Air Force had already adopted the Finger-four -formation in mid-30s,[7][8] which was to be found to be much more effective formation than the Vic formation that many other countries were still using when WWII began.

The Winter War began on November 30, 1939, when the Soviet Air Force bombed 21 Finnish cities and municipalities. The Soviet Union is estimated to have had about 5,000 aircraft in 1939, and of these, some 700 fighters and 800 medium bombers were brought to the Finnish front to support the Red Army's operations. As with most aerial bombardment of the early stages of WW2, the damage against the Finnish industry and railways was quite limited.

Fokker D.XXI aircraft in the Finnish air force during World War II.

Winter War 1939–40

By the end of the Civil War, the Finnish Air Force had 40 aircraft, of which 20 had been captured from the Reds (the Reds did not operate this many aircraft, but some had been found abandoned by the Russians on the Åland Islands). Five of the aircraft had been flown by the Allies from Russia, four had been gifts from Sweden and eight had been bought from Germany.

From March 10, 1918, the Finnish Air Force was led by the Swedish Lt. John. Allan Hygerth. He was however replaced on April 18, 1918, due to his unsuitability for the position and numerous accidents. His job was taken over by the German Captain Carl Seber, who commanded the air force from April 28, 1918 until December 13, 1918.

The first air operation of the Whites during the war was flown over Lyly. It was a reconnaissance gathering mission as the front line moved south, towards Tampere, the AFB was moved first to Orivesi and then to Kaukajärvi near Tampere. The contribution of the White air force during the war was almost insignificant.

The first Air Force Base of independent Finland was founded on the shore near Kolho. The base could operate three aircraft. The first aircraft was brought by rail on March 7, 1918, and on March 17, 1918 the first aircraft took off from the base. In 1918, the Finns took over nine Russian Stetinin M-9 aircraft that had been left behind.

The air activity consisted mainly of reconnaissance sorties. The Germans brought several of their own aircraft, but they did not contribute much to the overall outcome of the war.

  • 29 Swedes (16 pilots, two observers and 11 mechanics). Of the pilots, only 4 had been given military training, and one of them was operating as an observer.
  • 2 Danes (one pilot, one observer)
  • 7 Russians (six pilots, one observer)
  • 28 Finns (four pilots of whom two were military trained, six observers, two engineers and 16 mechanics).

During the Civil War the White Finnish Air Force consisted of:

The Whites also did not have any pilots, so all the pilots and mechanics came from Sweden. One of the Finnish Jägers, Lieutenant Bertil Månsson, had been given pilot training in the imperial Germany, but he stayed behind in Germany, trying to secure aircraft deals for Finland.

However, one Morane-Saulnier Parasol, and three N.A.B. Albatros arrived from Sweden by the end of February 1918. Two of the Albatross aircraft were gifts from persons supporting the White Finnish cause, while the third was bought. It was initially meant that the aircraft would be used to support the air operations of the Whites, but the aircraft proved unsuitable.

In January 1918 the Whites did not have a single aircraft, nor pilots, so they asked the Swedes for help. Sweden was a neutral nation and it could not send any official help. Sweden also forbade its pilots to go to Finland.

The air activity of the Whites

It seems like the Reds also operated two aircraft over the Eastern front. The Reds mainly performed reconnaissance, bombing sorties, spreading of propaganda leaflets, and artillery spotting. The Reds' air activity wasn’t particularly successful. Their air operations suffered from bad leadership, worn-out aircraft, and the un-motivated Russian pilots. Some of the aircraft were captured by the Whites, while the rest were destroyed.

Two of the aircraft, one reconnaissance aircraft (Nieuport 10) and one fighter aircraft (Nieuport 17) that had arrived to Riihimäki were sent to Tampere, and three to Kouvola. Four Russian pilots and six mechanics also arrived to Tampere. The first war sortie was flown on March 1, 1918 over Naistenlahti.

The Reds created air units in Helsinki, Tampere, Kouvola, and Viipuri. There were no overall headquarters, but the individual units served under the commander of the individual front line. A flight school was created in Helsinki, but no students were trained there before the fall of Helsinki.

The Reds were in possession of a few airbases and a few Russian aircraft, mainly amphibious aircraft. They had 12 aircraft in all. The Reds did not have any pilots themselves, so they hired some of the Russian pilots that had stayed behind. On 24 February 1918 five aircraft arrived to Viipuri, and were quickly transferred to Riihimäki.

Most of the airbases that the Russians had left in Finland had been taken over by Whites after the Russian pilots had returned to Russia.

The air activity of the Reds

The Finnish Civil War 1918

The Finnish Air Force assigns the matriculation numbers to its aircraft by assigning each type a two-letter code following by dash and an individual aircraft number. The two-letter code usually refers to the aircraft manufacturer or model, such as HN for F/A-18 Hornet, DK for Saab 35 Draken, VN for Valmet Vinka etc.

The F.1 aircraft was destroyed in an accident, killing its crew, not long after it had been handed over to the Finns. On 7 September 1920, two newly purchased Savoia flying boats crashed in the Swiss Alps en route to Finland, killing all on-board (three Finns and one Italian). This day has since been the memorial day for fallen pilots.


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