The Air Force is getting prepared for the 2018 NRF rotation
The International Readiness Unit of the Finnish Air Force will rotate in the NATO Response Force from 1 Jan 2018 to 31 Dec 2018. Members of the personnel of the Air Force are trained for the tasks of the Readiness Unit during 2017.
The Readiness Unit is made up of four F/A-18 Hornet multirole fighters and 250 personnel at a maximum consisting of Air Force active duty personnel and reservists. During the rotation period, the NATO Response Force stands in readiness to be deployed within 60 days. Possible use of the Force, for example, in a crisis management operation requires a separate political decision. Personnel trained for the Readiness Unit tasks participate in international operations on a voluntary basis.
Finland has participated in the NRF supplementary activities force pool every year since 2012. For 2017, the Finnish Navy committed a mine countermeasure vessel and the Army a CBRN special unit to the NRF. The previous time a Finnish Air Force unit rotated was in 2014. That year, Karelia Air Command was responsible for the training.
Capability during rotation
During the rotation period the Air Force shall have capability to establish and provide additional training for an international readiness unit deployable to an operation, conduct an evaluation in the area of the air base and area of operations, and lead the maintenance and logistics support for the readiness unit during the operation.
During the rotation, the Air Force Unit may conduct different types of air to air operations including, for example, no-fly zone surveillance, protection of vital targets against air threats, and protection and escorting of air operations.
Lt Col Sami Puuperä, Commander of Lapland Air Command Fighter Squadron 11 commands the unit.
– Considering the nature of the task, as Commander of the Fighter Squadron, I was an obvious choice to command the Readiness Unit. I consider it an important task. It will contribute to my professional competency, and I am ready to be deployed in the event of an international operation.
Lapland Air Command responsible for training
This year, Lapland Air Command is responsible for training personnel for the tasks of the Air Force Readiness Unit. Commander of the Air Command, Col Mikko Kauppala says that due to its importance to the Air Force and the Defence Forces, the execution of the NRF training is one of the most important tasks assigned to the Air Command in 2017.
– A great amount of effort has been invested in the planning and execution of the training. Our training organization must achieve a good enough level to pass the national training evaluation. To reach this goal, all the personnel in training must put in a particular effort and go the extra mile when it comes to participating in training periods and achieving objectives. This also means that our units must prioritize their tasks and resource allocation this year.
– Even if I have not specifically been assigned to the training organization, I strive to actively follow training events at the scene. It is my job to make sure that the training program gets executed and that the Air Command has the necessary resources.
Training gives soldiers the necessary skills
The training focuses mainly on ground activities including leadership, planning, use and maintenance of equipment, and individual soldiers’ skills. In addition to members of active duty personnel, a number of Air Force conscripts are also trained; in the reserve, they will be able to participate in the activities of the Readiness Unit on a voluntary basis.
– There is no need for separate flight training; with small changes, the training received by Hornet pilots gives them the necessary skills for air-to-air operations also in an international environment. The pilots are only given refresher training, for example, on the effects of various types of circumstances on flying, says Lt Col Puuperä.
All through the spring, the personnel assigned for the rotation are training and rehearsing basic skills vital for every soldier in an international air base environment referred to as Individual Common Core Skills, ICCS. During the summer, a container base will be set up in the area of the air base of Lapland Air Command for simulating the type of area of responsibility the AF Readiness Unit could have at the base of a possible international operation. This training base will be called Tactical Area of Responsibility, TAOR.
– Later this year, the forces will also undergo branch-specific training, where each force will rehearse and train its specific core skills. The training period will lead up to unit-specific training events. Training as one force will bring the units together and have them rehearse again their core ICCS skills, Puuperä explains.
In the autumn, the readiness of the forces will be assessed in a training evaluation conducted in accordance with the NATO-standards. The Air Force Command will be responsible for the evaluation.
National defence will gain from the participation
Rotating in the NRF will boost and maintain the credibility and readiness of the Defence Forces and the Air Force, and improve the international military capability and interoperability required for crisis management operations. The training is aimed at supporting the reservists’ skills in particular. The skills learned will further serve the development of national defence and cooperation between Finnish authorities. In the training, special attention is focused on areas deemed necessitating improvement in previous training evaluations.
– Lapland Air Command will also benefit significantly from the execution of the NRF training. It will contribute to the personal skills of those assigned to the training organization while giving them additional competencies. We seek to incorporate the competencies gained from the training across the entire Lapland Air Command organization - the skills will remain even when the training and rotation come to a close. That is why it is crucial that every unit supports the carrying out of the training by their professional input, Col Kauppala sums up.