The Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets have successfully landed on and taken off from a regular road for the first time. Two of the RAF’s frontline jets tested and proved the capability in Finland as part of Exercise Baana. The Finnish Air Force’s annual training exercise took place on a single-lane road in Tervo, which is usually used for normal road traffic but specially designed as an emergency landing strip to sustain aircraft activity if required. The RAF is focussing on ways to conduct Agile Combat Employment to outmanoeuvre an adversary – to survive an attack, disperse to remote locations and continue operating with minimal support.
The Officer Commanding of 41 Test and Evaluation Squadron was one of the two pilots to take part. He said:“This is an opportunity to work with one of our newest NATO partners on an exercise in Agile Combat Employment. The Finnish have worked hard for decades on disparate operations should they be attacked and need to disperse their aircraft. Once we landed on the strip we stopped to refuel before taking off again, I couldn’t help but look around and think ‘I am sitting in a jet on a road in the middle of a forest in Finland’. That was pretty crazy and definitely a first.”
A small number of RAF personnel were on the ground to refuel and maintain the aircraft to ensure they could continue operating. The RAF used to operate from unusual locations such as roads and fields during the Cold War, in order to make our aircraft harder for the enemy to find, Russian aggression in Eastern Europe has reminded us all of the need to be able to disperse our aircraft and be more unpredictable, so why we are completing exercises such as this. This is the first time the RAF has taken part in the exercise, which is now part of the Finnish Air Force’s routine flying training. The Norwegian Air Force, also taking part for the first time, tested their F-35A Lightning aircraft, a 5th generation fighter jet also operated by the UK and 15 other allied countries.
The Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets were operating out of Rissala Air Base and Tervo Road Base for these trials. It provides the opportunity to expand the combat air knowledge and practices of using Emergency Landing Strips and dispersed operations. The UK and Finland enjoy a close defence relationship as NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force allies, and often train and deploy together on exercises around the world. The Typhoon was designed originally as an air-superiority fighter and is manufactured by a consortium of Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo that conducts the majority of the project through a joint holding company, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH.