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NEWS | June 13, 2023

Finnish pilots visit the Virginia Air National Guard

By Staff Sgt. Kellyann Elish | 192nd Wing

Finnish Air Force pilots toured the 192nd Wing, Virginia Air National Guard, with pilots from the 149th Fighter Squadron May 16, 2023, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

The Virginia National Guard and Finnish Defence Forces have developed a 20 plus year partnership since they deployed together in 2001-2002 as members of NATO’s SFOR-10 (stablization force) Multinational Division North in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These personal relationships form the basis of the VANG-FDF strategic partnership.

These engagements began with the Army Guard, but over the past two years, the Air Guard has begun to develop a growing relationship with the Finnish Air Force. With Finland's recent approval to join NATO, it is expected that this relationship will continue to grow.

Although not a formal State Partnership Program currently, the information exchange between the VaANG and FINAF pilots has already proven valuable to both sides.

“An official State Partnership would be mutually beneficial to both Finland and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Lt. Col. Lawrence Dietrich, 149th Fighter Squadron commander. “The Virginia Air National Guard 149th FS is leading USAF efforts in Agile Combat Employment - an area where there is much to learn from the Finnish Air Force as they operate with an ACE mindset daily. Additionally, the 149th has tremendous experience with 5th Generation fighter integration tactics and can provide this expertise to Finland as they begin to procure F-35s and fly them alongside their existing F-18 fleet.”

During this recent trip, the FINAF and VaANG pilots discussed ACE techniques used by the Finns, specifically focusing on austere distributed communications and dispersal operations. The Finnish pilots received a tour of an F-22 and discussed fighter integration operations, leveraging the VaANG pilots’ experiences in fourth and fifth generation.

In August 2022, members of the VaANG visited Helsinki, Finland, and met with numerous defense officials to discuss the way forward with a formal State Partnership. Following discussions in Helsinki, VaANG pilots visited Finland's Air Combat Center in Tampere, Finland, where they engaged in tactical level discussions surrounding the challenges both nations face, and paths forward where cooperation could benefit both sides.

The National Guard’s State Partnership Program has been successfully building relations for 30 years and now includes 88 partnerships with 100 nations around the globe.

Through SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals but also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.

Future FINAF and VaANG engagements are expected to occur in two upcoming exercises, German Air Defender 2023 and Ruska 2023, where the discussion topics of ACE and fighter integration are expected to continue.

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