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Finnish Air Force names first woman as fighter squadron commander

Lt Col Inka Niskanen, 44, is the highest ranking woman ever in the Finnish Defence Forces.

Inka Niskanen.
Lt Col Inka Niskanen began fighter pilot training 16 years ago. Image: Maanpuolustuskorkeakoulu

As of early 2019, the Karelia Air Command’s Fighter Squadron 31 will be led by Finland’s first female squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Inka Niskanen.

She is the highest ranking woman ever in the Finnish Defence Forces, which opened its doors to female volunteers in 1995 (most men are required to serve as conscripts). Lieutenant Colonel is the sixth-highest rank in the Finnish Army and Air Force.

The unit is headquartered at Rissala Air Base in Siilinjärvi, near Kuopio in eastern Finland.

Niskanen, 44, was promoted to the rank in June. She moves to Rissala from the National Defence University in Helsinki, where she was an aerial warfare instructor.

Fighter Squadron 31 has a staff that varies between 50 and 100, along with 20-25 aircraft.

Local newspaper gets scoop

The Kuopio newspaper Savon Sanomat revealed the appointment before any official statement from the Air Force or Defence University. It has been independently confirmed by Yle.

Niskanen joined the Karelia Air Command in 2001 and began training as a Hornet fighter pilot the following year. She is the first and so far only woman to be trained as Hornet pilot in Finland – and one of only a few female fighter pilots worldwide, says Savon Sanomat.

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