Each of the three air commands of the Air Force has a readiness flight. Its task is to maintain quick reaction alert (QRA) within the air command’s area of responsibility. Every now and then, a QRA aircraft is launched to proceed to the nation’s border or into international airspace to identify traffic in the vicinity of Finnish territory. QRA aircraft are armed, and their pilots carry SLR cameras for obtaining imagery of identified aircraft.
The readiness flight is involved in the development of multi-target tactics for the Hornet fleet and in the planning of dispersed operations from road bases. In this capacity, the flight bears planning responsibility for most of the squadron’s tactical exercises. As early as 1996 Hornets participated in three field exercises. Since 1997, fighter squadrons have conducted squadron-level exercises in the air combat centres where results can be analysed down to the smallest detail.
The Air Force has undertaken dispersed operations from road bases for decades as part of field exercises in which reservist maintainers in refresh training perform checks on all Air Force aircraft types, working together with active duty personnel. The folding wings, designed for carrier operations, have turned out a useful feature during taxi on narrow roads. These operations have aroused considerable interest among other Hornet operators.
The Air Force’s mobile field arresting systems can be installed on highway strips. They enable the stopping of an aircraft in a distance of 300 metres, which is approximately three times the length of the landing run made possible by carrier installed arresting systems.
Peacetime quick reaction alert. Example: Satakunta Air Command
The primary mission of Satakunta Air Command is 24-hour air defence throughout the year. The air command provides surveillance of Southern Finland’s airspace and safeguards territorial integrity in this area, 24 hours a day.
A target detected by the airspace surveillance system is identified in co-operation with civil aviation authorities.
If necessary, visual and aural air surveillance is stepped
up, working together with the Frontier Guard, Navy, and
If the identity of a target flying in the airspace or threatening to enter it cannot be established, No. 3 Sector Operations Centre orders an aircraft to take off to identify the target.
A pilot on alert duty at Fighter Squadron 21 is airborne on an identification mission within 3 minutes from the scramble order if he is at cockpit alert status, or within 15 minutes if on strip alert.
A fighter controller stationed in No. 3 Sector Operations Centre vectors the aircraft to a position where the pilot can accomplish identification.
The armed fighter establishes the nationality and tail number of the target and escorts a foreign aircraft that has strayed into our airspace out of the Finnish territory, or forces it to land if required.
Satakunta Air Command undertakes approximately 100 identification missions each year.
Instrument landing system
The glide slope of the instrument landing system (ILS) is three degrees as agreed by an international convention since a steeper slope would make approaches more difficult, which in turn would jeopardise flight safety. Military aircraft capture the glide slope at an altitude of approximately 800 metres, which enables them to use low power settings during descent towards the base.
Photo: A Hornet landing on a wintry airfield.
In good meteorological conditions the use of instrument landing systems is not required, and aircraft may join the traffic circuits for runways from directions given by air traffic control. In this way the build up of traffic along extended runway centrelines is avoided. The Hornet and the Hawk are able to fly tighter circuits than their predecessor, the Draken, so aircraft noise is limited to a smaller area around the runways.
Photo: A Hawk takes off from a highway strip.
Most flight operations take place at medium altitudes throughout Central Finland and over the southern basin of the Gulf of Bothnia. Due to prevailing winds and poor weather, recovering aircraft often have to fly to the extended centreline of the runway for approach from the northeast to make safe landings possible. In this case, the flow of traffic is over the southern suburbs of Tampere at the altitude determined by the glide slope of the instrument landing system.