Finland in NATO: what are the consequences for air defense in the Baltic?

U.S. Air Force photo

For decades, Finland has maintained a policy of non-alignment, declining to join any military alliance. However, with increasing concerns over Russia’s aggressive behavior in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, the Nordic country applied for accelerated accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and officially joined the alliance on April 4, 2023. 

Finland’s integration into NATO could have significant implications for the alliance’s air defense strategy as a country with advanced air defense capabilities and a strategic location in the High North. By joining NATO, Finland enhances the alliance’s ability to monitor and respond to potential air threats in the region. 

The Finnish Air Force is a modern and capable force with advanced technology and a strong emphasis on interoperability with NATO forces.  

Since 1992, its fighter fleet has been composed of F/A-18 Hornet jets. They will be progressively phased out between 2025 and 2030 and replaced by the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35A Block 4 fighter jet. In December 2021, Finland’s Ministry of Defence chose to procure 64 of them. 

Finland, along with Sweden which also applied for NATO membership, has not waited for NATO membership in order to operate alongside the alliance’s air forces. As recently as March 2023, four Finnish F/A-18 Hornet fighters deployed to Ämari Air Base in Estonia to train with aircraft from Germany, the United Kingdom, Estonia, France, the United States, and the Netherlands. 

“Finnish and Swedish air forces have trained and deployed alongside NATO air forces for many years,” a NATO official told AeroTime in an emailed statement. “Finland and Sweden have considerable military capabilities, including advanced fighter aircraft which are fully interoperable with NATO.” 

(NATO Air Command photo)

The acceptance of Sweden into NATO is still awaiting the approval of Turkey and Hungary. 

“I am absolutely confident that Sweden will also become a member,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on April 3, 2023. “It’s a priority for NATO, for me, to ensure that happens as soon as possible.” 

In addition to better integration of their air defense capabilities with the alliance, Finland and Sweden are not ruling out the possibility of housing nuclear bombs as part of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangement.  

AeroTime reached out to the Finnish Air Force for comment.  

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