The Finnish Air Force revealed on Tuesday that unusually intense Russian activity has been detected over the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea in general during a major military exercise by the Russian Armed Forces.
The activity was first detected on 6 December and has continued between Sunday and Tuesday. It remains unknown when the exercise is scheduled to end.
Carl Haglund (SFP), the Minister of Defence, estimated on Tuesday that the activity is clearly a show of force by Russia. “It presents no immediate threat, but Russia with its actions is demonstrating that it has the power and capacity to act, if it chooses to,” Haglund viewed.
The activity has prompted the Finnish Air Force to step up its air-policing operations by, for example, adjusting the number of Hornet jets on stand-by at several airbases. Nato has similarly bolstered its efforts to monitor the airspace of Sweden and the Baltic countries.
“Everyone's airborne,” described Haglund.
The activity is unusual also in light of the number and types of aircraft detected in the region, added Brigadier General Petri Tolla, the chief of staff at the Air Force Command.
The detected detachments have included bombers, stealth and interceptor jets as well as transport aircraft, according to Tolla. “More than one of each aircraft type has been detected. I don't wish to comment on the specific numbers.”
Perhaps the most unusual aircraft is Tupolev Tu-95, a bomber also known by its Nato reporting name Bear.
None of the aircraft have violated Finnish airspace.
Tolla on Tuesday also refrained from speculating on the objectives of the Russian military exercise over the Baltic Sea. “They've moved between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad, back and forth,” he said.
Haglund estimated that the activity is an indication of how tense the security situation currently is.
Both he and Tolla refused to reveal exactly how many identification flights Finnish jets have had to carry out: Several, said Haglund. “The pictures we published show that we've been up there quite a lot,” added Tolla.
The Brigadier General also revealed that the activity has taken place at all hours of the day, although primarily during the daytime. Not all of the aircraft had switched on their transponder or had a flight plan, according to Tolla.
In addition to the Tupolev Tu-95, Finnish jets have identified Tupolev Tu-22M bombers as well as Suhoi Su-27 and MiG-31 jets. Suhoi Su-24 and Suhoi Su-34 jets as well as Ilyushin Il-76 and Antonov An-26 multi-purpose aircraft have also been detected over the Baltic Sea.
Jarmo Huhtanen, Anna-Liina Kauhanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photo: Finnish Air Force