Friday, December 8, 2023

NATO air forces are increasing the number of exercises to disperse their fighter fleet.

With the return of the risk of major conflict, including in Europe, NATO air forces are resuming dispersal exercises for their fighter fleet, in order to respond to the threat of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and attack drones at long range, on military airfields as part of preventive strikes. It is in this context that the Baana 2023 exercise took place in Finland, which allowed several air forces to practice using sections of highways to deploy their fighter aviation.

Fighter fleet dispersal exercises were common throughout the Cold War. Indeed, all air forces knew that their military airfields would be the target of enemy bombing, probably using nuclear weapons, so as to eliminate the NATO fighter fleets which then represented the alliance's main asset on the Warsaw Pact.

Certain aircraft, such as the Swedish JAS 37 Viggen, the American A-10 Thunderbolt II, and especially the British Harrier, had been designed precisely with the aim of being able to be deployed from makeshift terrain, such as small civil airfields or sections of highway.

The return of fighter plane dispersal exercises linked to the international context

With the end of the Cold War, this need for a certain rusticity in combat aircraft waned as threats to air bases became negligible, particularly during asymmetric conflicts.

Highway dispersal exercises Taiwan mirage 2000-5
The Taiwanese air forces have never stopped practicing the operational dispersal of their combat aircraft, particularly on sections of highways.

And only a few countries, including Sweden and Finland, then attached to their neutrality, or Taiwan threatened by Beijing, continued to exercise their JAS 39 Gripen, F/A-18 Hornet , F-16 and Mirage 2000, to use runways improvised to ensure their dispersion.

The rise in tensions against China, the massive arrival of long-range weapons such as cruise missiles or attack drones, and especially the lessons of the war in Ukraine, have led the air forces to reconsider this tactic. to guarantee their operational effectiveness, including beyond an opposing preventive strike.

Exercise Baana 2023 in Finland

In this area, several air forces went to exercise their talents and learn from the most experienced, during a recent exercise held in Finland a few days ago.

Designated Baana, this exercise takes place every year, and allows the Finnish Air Force to temporarily use portions of highways to practice taking off, landing and operating their Hornet from this degraded environment.

Eurofighter Typhoon Royal Air Force Finland highway exercise Baana 2023
Eurofighter Typhoon taking off from a section of Finnish highway during exercise Baana 23

This year, however, other aircraft have joined the Finnish fighters, including Eurofighter Typhoon from the Royal Air Force , as well as Norwegian F-35As.

The objective was to validate the capabilities of the aircraft to use this type of makeshift terrain, but also of the air forces to ensure the deployment of fighters in degraded environments.

RAF Eurofighter Typhoon and Norwegian F-35As on Finnish highways

The participation of the Norwegian F-35As was of particular interest to the Finns, who declared themselves in favor of the Lockheed-Martin fighter to replace its Hornet in the years to come.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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