A Finnish Air Force jet practicing landing on the highway, Source: Finnish Air Force

Finland tested a highway as a jet landing strip

Finland tested a highway as a jet landing strip

That kind of military exercise hasn’t been tried in decades in the Nordic country

Last week, residents of the municipality of Joutsa, in central Finland, gathered to watch how military jets practice take-off and land on the same highway that connects the town to the capital Helsinki. The road was thus not available for its regular intended use for five days in a row, becoming instead the stage for military exercises that haven’t been practised in decades.

The Nordic country, in fact, has a dozen similar reserve runways designed for wartime use in case the regular military airports become blocked or destroyed. The roads-as-landing-strips option provides the Finnish Air Force with the ability to quickly and flexibly disperse aircraft to different parts of the country. For example, when it is needed to support the navy.

Upcoming NATO membership, still in the works

The exercise was useful not only for the pilots of the jets but also for the ground staff, who practised the so-called “hot refuelling” – that is filling the aircraft while its engines are running.

Colonel Vesa Mantyla, the head of the Finnish Air Force, explained that the roads are kept in good condition so they can easily be converted into landing strips.

"The threat from Russia or the actions from Russia with the cruise missiles and ballistic missiles (in Ukraine) proves that the concept of dispersed operations is right," he told Reuters.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden (previously neutral) were quick to request membership in the NATO military alliance. Their applications were approved following a commitment by the two countries to address some of Turkey’s concerns regarding Kurdish nationalist organizations. An accession protocol was signed on 5 July.

So far, 28 out of the 30 NATO members have ratified the accession of the two countries, with only Hungary and Turkey remaining to do so. How long it will take these countries to ratify the agreement and finalize the accession process, however, is still a matter of speculation.



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