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Finland hosts major European fighter jet exercise in Lapland, Pirkanmaa

The Arctic Challenge Exercise 23 will involve about 3,000 soldiers from several different countries, but peace activists plan to hold a demonstration against the drills in Lapland on Monday.

F/A-18 Hornet -monitoimihävittäjä ja sen omasuojajärjestelmiin kuuluvia soihtuja.
File photo. Image: Anne Torvinen / Lapin lennosto
Yle News

The Finnish Air Force will begin leading this year's Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE 23) from Monday.

The fighter jet training event will be held in Rovaniemi and Pirkkala in Finland, Luleå in Sweden and Ørland in Norway. ACE 23 is one of the largest air exercises of the year in Europe and will run until 9 June.

An estimated 3,000 troops, from the armed forces of 14 different countries, will take part in the exercise. Aside from the three Nordic hosts, Denmark, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States will also participate.

During the exercise, the sounds of the fighter jets will be heard and seen over the skies of northern parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden as they fly two sorties a day between 9am and 6pm from Monday to Friday.

In total, around 150 aircraft will be involved in ACE 23. Finland will participate in the exercise with twelve F/A-18 Hornet multi-role fighters as well as liaison and transport aircraft.

This year's event will be the sixth ACE jointly hosted by the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Air Forces. They have been held every two years since 2013 within the framework of the Nordefco alliance, a cooperation between the Nordic nations.

Ground Forces exercises in Finnish Lapland

The international exercises will also bring thousands of ground troops to Rovajärvi in Finnish Lapland. While not all will come to the area at the same time, an estimated 8,000 will have visited Finnish Lapland over the course of three weeks.

This follows the hosting of two other major exercises in the region in recent weeks. One drill, named Lightning Strike 23, ended on Saturday. On the same day, Northern Forest 23 began, and will run until Friday 2 June.

A series of military drills and exercises also took across Finland and in Finnish waters over this past weekend, with thousands of troops involved.

Protest group criticise military drills

A group called the Lapland Peace Committee (Lapin Rauhanpuolustajat in Finnish) will hold a demonstration against the military exercises in the centre of Rovaniemi on Monday afternoon.

"The ACE exercise will mean huge fossil fuel consumption and massive greenhouse gas emissions: the emissions of 150 warplanes are equivalent to the emissions of more than nine million passenger cars," the association's secretary Tapio Siirilä said.

The group added that the exercises will also increase mistrust and could lead to confrontations between countries.

The association is opposed to Finland's membership of Nato as well as the United States' participation in military exercises on Finnish soil.

Siirilä, however, added that he does not accept Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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