A group of Russian military aircraft which included a Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, Tu-160 strategic bomber and a Beriev A-50 jet were intercepted by Finland's F/A-18 C/D Hornets on July 15, 2019. The F/A-18 Hornet multirole fighters of Finnish Air Force were on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) when they were directed towards the three Russian planes.
While the Finnish Air Force did not specify the number of F/A-18s scrambled for the intercept, it tweeted about the incident with photos of the Russian Su-35, Tu-160 and A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C). The Russian planes were flying in international airspace over the Gulf of Finland and Baltic Sea when they were intercepted by the FA/18s.
Finnish Air Force F/A-18s on #QRA were scrambled on 15 July to identify Russian Tu-160, A-50 and Su-35 aircraft in international airspace above the Gulf of Finland and the northern part of the Baltic Sea. The airspace of Finland was not violated. #FINAF #readiness pic.twitter.com/uCt3GNO8YO
— Ilmavoimat (@FinnishAirForce) July 15, 2019
The Finnish Air Force added that the Russian military aircraft did not violate Finland's airspace. The Finnish Air Force commander is Major General Pasi Jokinen.
According to the force, most air policing missions are executed by its F/A-18 C/D Hornet multirole fighters standing on quick-reaction alert rotation on air bases across the country. "If an unidentified aircraft is detected inside or approaching Finnish airspace, a fighter jet may be scrambled to meet and identify the incoming aircraft, and turn it away if necessary," the Finnish Air Force says on its website.
Under peacetime conditions, Finnish Air Force aircraft are normally located at the service's main operating bases (Lapland Air Command's Rovaniemi Air Base, Karelia Air Command's Rissala AB, Satakunta Air Command's Pirkkala AB and Air Force Academy's Tikkakoski AB). If a need arises to adjust readiness level, either in peacetime or in the event of a crisis, aircraft may be dispersed to road bases and other remote operating locations.
Finnish Air Force has approximately 2,000 uniformed and non-uniformed service members. The service trains around 1,300 conscripts each year. The F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet multirole fighters are its primary combat jets. To support the F/A-18 Hornet fleet, the Finnish Air Force uses BAE Systems Hawk 51, 51A, and 66 jet trainers, primarily in advanced and fighter lead-in training roles.