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Air Force's biggest drills of the year to soar over Finland

Involving 60 aircraft and nearly 5,000 personnel, the Ruska 20 exercises will last just over a week.

Ilmavoimien Hornet-hävittäjä nousee Pirkkalan lentokentältä.
The exercises are to feature low-level flight missions, and supersonic F/A-18 Hornet flights. The aircraft will also utilise countermeasures such as flares and chaff. According to the Air Force, the flares might be seen as short, bright spots of light in the sky, while chaff can cause echoes on weather radar equipment. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

More than 60 aircraft and thousands of military personnel are taking part in the Air Force's Ruska 20 air operation exercises across much of Finland, starting on Monday.

As per tradition, the Swedish Air Force is also taking part in the Finnish Air Force's biggest exercises of the year.

The drills, which end on 6 October, are meant to enhance the Air Force's preparedness, provide training for active duty members, conscripts as well as reservists.

Many residents across the country will likely see and hear the drills in areas stretching from Rovaniemi to Jyväskylä and Kajaani to Vaasa.

The drills will include about 4,800 personnel, including roughly 2,500 reservists, according to the Air Force. Bases in the municipalities of Rovaniemi, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Kajaani and Halli will be used during the exercises.

"Ruska 20 will demonstrate the high readiness of the Air Force in protecting the integrity of Finnish airspace, and securing the functions vital to our society on a '24-7' basis in all situations. Active-duty personnel, conscripts and reservists operate in their emergency conditions' tasks as per the Air Force’s mobile battle concept," Colonel Juha-Pekka Keränen, director of the exercises, said in a statement.

Covid-19 restrictions in place

The Finnish Defence Forces have adjusted training and drill schedules due to the Covid-19 situation.

"During the exercise, we will observe the national, regional and local COVID-19 restrictions. The Finnish Air Force follows the development of the COVID-19 situation, and we are prepared to modify the arrangements of the exercise at a short notice, if necessary," Keränen said.

"Live exercises such as Ruska are important for maintaining our troops’ skills and readiness in all situations. The health and safety of the troops is our first priority, and we will conduct the exercise as required by the circumstances," he said in the statement.

The majority of the 60 aircraft are F/A-18 Hornet multi-role fighters, but the drills will also include the Swedish Air Force's JAS 39C/D Gripen multi-role fighters and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.

While the drills were scheduled to begin at noon on Monday, the most intensive part of the exercises will be on 2 to 6 October, from additional airfields in Kuopio, Seinäjoki, Kokkola-Pietarsaari, Vaasa, Pudasjärvi and Kuusamo.

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