Extensive exercises involving about 150 fighter jets from Western countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, began Monday in Finland, Sweden and Norway, the Finnish Air Force said.
In these countries bordering Russia, the maneuvers are expected to last nearly two weeks, according to Helsinki, a brand new member of NATO and which leads the operation "Arctic Challenge". "The exercises have started (...) Our first rotation is underway," Finnish Air Force Col. Henrik Elo told AFP.
The Nordic country ended decades of forced neutrality and military non-alignment after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine by joining NATO in early April.
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Organized every two years by the Nordic countries since 2013, this year "Arctic Challenge" brings together 14 nations (12 NATO members as well as Sweden in the process of joining, and Switzerland).
American and several European F-35s, French Rafale and Mirage, Danish and Dutch F-16s, Finnish and Swiss F-18s and Swedish Gripen are taking part in the exercise, which is due to end on June 9. "It's the biggest organized so far," Colonel Elo said.
The aircraft will be stationed in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, as well as at the Finnish base of Pirkkala-Tampere.
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The exercise coincides with a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo this week, as well as a visit by US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken to Finland on Thursday and Friday.