During the Finnish Civil War, the Whites had to rely on foreign pilots and aircraft. The official and neutral Sweden refused to send men and material, but individual Swedish citizens wanted to help the Whites. The editor of the Swedish daily magazine Aftonbladet, Waldemar Langlet, bought a N.A.B. Albatros aircraft from the Nordiska Aviatik A.B. factory with funds gathered by the Finlands vänner ("Friends of Finland") organization. This was the first aircraft to arrive from Sweden. It was flown via Haparanda on 25 February 1918 by the Swedish pilots John-Allan Hygerth (who became the first commander of the Finnish Air Force on 10 March) and Per Svanbäck. The aircraft made a stop at Kokkola and had to make a forced landing in Jakobstad when the engine broke down. This aircraft was later given the designation F.2 in the Finnish Air Force ("F" came from the Swedish word "Flygmaskin" (aircraft)).
The Swedish count Eric von Rosen gave the Finnish White government its second aircraft, a Thulin Typ D. A photograph of this plane can be found in the book by Christopher Shores. The pilot, Lieutenant Nils Kindberg, flew the aircraft to Vaasa on 6 March 1918, having von Rosen as a passenger. As this aircraft was given against the will of the Swedish government, and no flight permit had been given, it resulted in a 100 kronor fine for Kindberg 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 didn't exist during the Civil War, and since 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. The air force was officially called the "aviation force" during its first years. The Finnish Air Force is one of the oldest air forces of the world - the RAF was founded as an 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 swastika, the ancient symbol of good luck - was adopted as the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. The white circular background was created when the Finns tried to paint over the advertisement from the Thulin air academy. The swastika was officially taken into use after an order by Mannerheim on 18 March 1918. The FAF had to change the swastika insignia after 1945, due to an Allied Control Commission decree, where all swastikas had to be abandoned. However, the original swastika can still be found in some regimental flags and medals, especially in the air force.
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 then been the memorial day for pilots that have been lost.
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 refers to the aircraft type name, such as HN for F/A-18 Hornet, DK for Saab J-35 Draken, VN for Valmet Vinka etc.
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.
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.
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 as gifts. Many of these purchases and gifts didn't arrive until the end of the hostilities, but were to see action later during the Continuation and Lapland wars.
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 were in an disadvantageous position. A good example of the wiseness in this tactics was the surprise attack on the Immola air base in late February 1940 by some 40 Soviet fighters. The Finns scrambeled its available Fokker D.XXIs and Gloster Gladiators but lost seven aircraft against four shot down enemy fighters.
As a result off 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.
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. New aircraft types were in place by the time hostilities with Russia 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, a few dozen Curtiss Hawk 75s captured by the Germans in France and Norway then sold to Finland, when Germany began warming up its ties with Finland, and numerous Brewster B239s from the neutral USA strengthened the FiAF. 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, were replaced in front-line combat units with the new aircraft.
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 while losing only 15. German Bf 109s replaced the B239 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.
Dornier 17s (received as a gift from Hermann Göring in 1942) and Junkers 88s gave more capacity to 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.
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.
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.
The Finnish Air Force did not bomb any civilian targets during either war. Curiously, overflying Soviet towns and bases was also forbidden, as to avoid any unneeded provocations and to spare equipment.
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 own aircraft during the Continuation War 1941-44.
Certain aircraft are scheduled for replacement: The Fokker F.27s will continue to serve side-by-side with the C-295Ms but are due to be replaced in a few years time. The Hawk Mk.51s and 51As are to be replaced by new planes of a so far unknown model in the next decade, and as an interim solution Swiss Mk.66s have been purchased. The Piper PA-31s will be replaced by 8 new liaison aircraft. Tenders have been invited from Pilatus Aircraft, Raytheon Aircraft Company and B-N Group.
The Finnish Air Force also planned to purchase 2-3 larger transport aircraft, to fulfill the requirements for domestic operations and for troop and logistics transports in international operations, as well as to form a tactical reserve for the evacuating of people from hazardous areas. The suggestions ranged from the Airbus A330 MRTT, Airbus A400M to the C-17 Globemaster III. On March 25 2008 it was decided that Finland would join NATOs joint airlift programme, which comprises a joint purchase of two C-17s by the new NATO countries and Sweden and Finland.
The decision to purchase the aircraft (64 in total, with 7 two-seat F-18D models and 57 single-seated F-18C models) was made in 1992, soon after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The original plan was to buy about 40 western fighters and about 20 Soviet fighters due to political reasons, but the collapse of the Soviet Union removed the political reason to also buy Soviet aircraft. The plan changed to 60 single-seat + 7 dual seat fighters of the same type, and the F-18 won the contest. Due to the F-18's high price, the number of fighters to be purchased was decreased by three, to 57+7.
A key goal in the Finnish foreign policy of that era was to take no action that might be interpreted by the Soviets as a security threat; a weapons purchase of this magnitude certainly applied. Buying only NATO-compatible, American fighter jets was not possible for Finland before the U.S.S.R.'s collapse.
The primary reason for the lack of ground attack features in the aircraft is the semantic meaning of the word "attack". For example, Finland has Defence Forces, not an army — even the possibility of Finland ever attacking its neighbors is denied on all levels. This made the policy decision to purchase attack aircraft impossible in the nineties aftermath of finlandization, leading to factory reconfiguration of the F/A-18 to the F-18 variant. A similar rationale also led the Swiss Air Force to purchase 34 F-18s in 1991. A ban on bombers ("aircraft with internal bomb bays") was also mandated by the Paris peace treaty of 1947. This ban was later unilaterally rejected by Finland, but it played a part in the original specification and the competition.
The FAF will test the following weapon types:
The proposed program support includes recorders, receivers, devices, systems, APX-111 Combined Interrogator Transponders Mode S, components improvement program, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and other related elements of logistics and program management support. The estimated cost is $300 million.
There has been some advance information that the AARGM won't be approved for Finnish testing, due to US ITAR regulations.
In December 2007 it was announced that the FAF had purchased ten AN/AAQ-28 LITENING AT Block II pods, which were to be integrated with its F-18s.
The Air Force is organised into three commands, each of which operates a fighter squadron:
The three commands are part of the Defence Forces' Readiness formations.
Total of 38,000 personnel
|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||Aarne 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|
|Major General||Jarmo Lindberg||August 1, 2008|