In 1976 the US Navy announced full-scale development, and
the first Hornet made its maiden flight on 18 November,
1978. By mid-1979 over five (5) different aircraft had
flown. The first batch of nine (9) Hornets was authorized
in Fiscal year 1979. By 1987 a total of 410 single-seat
F/A-18A and two-seat F/A-18B Hornets had joined the USN and
USMC replacing the A-7, F-4, and the A-6 series of
The low cost Hornet has become quite
popular around the world for export. Australia, Canada,
Kuwait, Spain, Switzerland, Malaysia and Thailand are among
the proud owners of the Boeing (who bought out
McDonnell-Douglas) F/A-18 Hornet. Finland has become one of
the newest owners of the Hornet. The first F-18 for the
Finnish Air Force successfully completed its first flight
on April 21, 1995. The Finnish Air Force received its first
Finnish-assembled Hornet in September 1996.
Jarmo Lindberg is a pilot in the Finnish Air Force (FAF).
I have had the great pleasure to converse with him in
recent months. He is a true gentleman and was kind enough
to graciously answer questions for me in an interview for
Combat Simulations on his own free time. Enjoy the reading!
Thanks again Jarmo!
Bubba: Jarmo, could you let our readers know how you became
interested in aviation? Was it a life long ambition or a
single event that led to your interest in the Finish Air
Jarmo: Mine is probably the traditional way of doing it
since I started with model aircraft and proceeded via
gliders to my private pilot license. I made a few hundred
model aircraft from 1970 to 1980. In the summer of 1974 I
started flying gliders and got my glider pilot's license
the next summer a few days after my 16th birthday. The next
year I got the private pilot's license.
Bubba: Once you decided to begin your quest toward becoming
a military pilot what qualifications did you need to obtain
this goal in the FAF?
Jarmo: I applied to the Finnish Air Force in the spring of
1978 to do my national service as a conscript in the Air
Force Academy. The Air Force Reserve Officer course started
in October 1978 and we flew some 40 hours with Swedish Saab
Safir primary trainers. Of the 30 pilots that participated
in the course 15 were selected from the applicants to the
three year long Flight Cadet Course.
The first year was in the Finnish Military Academy in
Helsinki with cadets from the other services. During the
next two years we concentrated in learning to fly the
French Fouga Magister jet along with our academic duties. I
graduated from the course in 1982.
Bubba: When you finished pilot training, what aircraft did
the FAF have in its inventory? Which aircraft did you want
to fly, and why?
Jarmo: In 1982 Finnish Air Force used the previously
mentioned trainers and our front line interceptor force
consisted of Swedish Saab 35 Drakens and (then) Soviet
MiG-21F and BIS. We used C-47s for transport duties (now
Fokker Friendships), Il-28 Beagles for target tugs (now
Gates Learjet 35A Special Mission aircraft), Cessna 402s
for liaison (now Piper Chieftains).
I was in a position to choose my aircraft and base at the
end of the cadet course and I chose the only Finnish MiG
squadron Fighter Squadron 31 at Rissala AB. I wanted to fly
the MiGs because I thought that they were exotic, fast and
agile - and I wasn't disappointed.
Bubba: Due to Finland's "neutral" stance it had no official
affiliation with NATO or the Warsaw Pact; thus how did the
FAF get dissimilar training with other airforces?
Jarmo: Finnish Air Force hasn't trained with other air
forces after WW2. During the time I have been in the
service there have been no exercises with Russian (Soviet),
WarPac or NATO countries. Our DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat
Training) has been against our own jets: Fougas, BAe Hawks,
MiGs, Drakens and F-18 Hornets. You can do a lot with an
inventory like that.
Fokker D21. Note the blue swastika, which is swedish count
Eric von Rosen's lucky sign from 1918 when he donated the
first aircraft (Morane Thulin Parasol) for the Finnish Air
The previous 'real exercise' we had was the WW2 against the
Soviet forces. We call it the Winter War from 1939 - 1940
and the Continuation War 1941 - 1944. We faced a force
ratio of 10:1 against us but we managed to stay independent
and of the European nations that took part in the WW2 he
capital of Finland - Helsinki was the only capital along
with London that wasn't occupied during WW2.
Ltn Jorma Sarvanto's World Record.
In early January, 1940 eight Soviet DB 3 bombers
were bombing the city of Kuopio in central Finland.
On their way back Ltn Jorma Sarvanto intercepted
the formation with his FR-97 and shot down six DB 3
bombers in just four minutes! This was a world
record in it's own class.
Ltn Sarvanto's FR-97 had 23 bullet holes when he
returned to base. Ltn Pelle Sovelius shot down one
more DB 3 from the formation over the Gulf of
We scored exchange ratios of 14:1 during the Winter War
against the Soviets with our Dutch Fokker DXXI (129
victories), 32:1 with Brewster fighters (477 victories) and
25:1 with Messercshmitt Bf-109s (663 victories). Our best
fighter squadron was Squadron 24 with 870 victories during
The highest scoring aces were Ilmari Juutilainen (94
victories) and Hans Wind (75 victories). 94 pilots got more
than five victories making them aces. This fighter legacy
is still very strong in the Finnish Air Force. Our motto is
"Qualitas Potentia Nostra" - quality is our strength.
Bubba: In 1989 your government decided it was time to
purchase some new equipment. Thus, 5 contenders (some
pretenders!!) were contacted to submit proposals for
advanced fighter aircraft. These suppliers contacted would
first entertain Finish officials on the manufactures
premise and then in Finland for testing in winter weather.
The "contenders" were Saab (JAS-39 Gripen), Dassault
(Mirage 2000-5), General Dynamics (F-16C) and
Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG-29A). McDonnell Douglas was contacted
about it's F/A-18C's but they were deemed too expensive and
were withdrawn from contention. As of 1989, four companies
were in consideration. Of these four choices, which was
considered the "likely" choice for the FAF? In other words,
who came in second? =)
Jarmo: Finnish Air Force selected the F/A-18 in May 1992
after a very careful evaluation. When the selection was
announced our Air Force declared the results of the
evaluation secret so no second place was never awarded
Bubba: Suddenly, the US Navy and McDonnell Douglas came
calling to the FAF once again. Quite quickly they convinced
the Finnish defense parliament to allow them back into
contention. Since it was decided to purchase all the
aircraft from the same manufacturer and buy them as a
single purchase, the aircraft chosen would undoubtedly have
to be very advanced with emphasis on counter air operations
which was considered PRIMARY to the FAF. Based on the
qualifications of each manufacturer, could you give us a
brief summery of what each aircraft had to offer that made
it's competency to the FAF a possibility?
Jarmo: We had a small bomber force in WW2 and there had
been strong proponents for 'Douhetism' in the FAF before
the war. Some thought that we could win the war with
bombers. But when we faced the 10:1 force ratio and all the
AAA around St. Petersburg the small bomber force wasn't so
effective. What turned out to be very important was the
fighter force guarding our home country, cities and land
The Finnish Air Force has been a fighter air force after
the WW2 so our emphasis has been in interceptors. When we
selected the aircraft for the fighter evaluation the
air-to-air capabilities were the most important. We were
looking for a rather small economic single-engine fighter.
That is also the reason why the F/A-18 wasn't in the
competition originally since it was thought to be too large
and expensive. This turned out to be a mistaken assumption.
Bubba: In 1992 the FAF made its choice. This decision was
quite simple and was based on a simple formula: PERFROMANCE
/ TOTAL COST. The F/A-18 was considered the "clear" winner.
As you know, debates about virtuosity rage on like never
before thanks to the Internet. However, one unyielding
factor separates the contenders. CHOICE. Cost being equal,
could you explain what it was about the F/A-18's
performance that caused it to be chosen and considered
superior to the other aircraft in contention?
Jarmo: Without comparing the laurels of the evaluated
fighters I would like to stress the point you made and that
is the performance/life cycle cost. That was the most
important thing and there were of course single issues
where a certain fighter excelled over the other ones but
when all the points were added together and divided by the
cost the F/A-18 came on top.
Bubba: Once the deal was signed (Letter of Intent 6th May
1992 and the offset agreement (100%) on 19th May 1992)
could you explain what criteria was chosen to establish
which 15 pilots would come to the United States and train
Jarmo: This is a formula we have used successfully with all
our fighter programs. We have had Saab 35 Draken pilots get
their conversion training in Sweden, MiG-21 pilots in the
FSU (Former Soviet Union) and BAe Hawk pilots in the UK.
This has worked well. We have gotten the program safely off
the ground and the training in the aircraft manufacturer
country's air force/navy has expedited our program
schedules. So it was logical that we would seek a similar
arrangement with the US Navy once we made the decision to
purchase a jet they used.
Bubba: When the Finnish pilots came to the United States,
what were your thoughts on the F/A-18 training that your
country was receiving?
Jarmo: We got a nine week Specialized Aviation English
course in the Defense Language Institute at Lackland AFB,
TX. After that we transferred to NAS Lemoore, CA for the
seven month F/A-18 CATII (category II for experienced
pilots) training. During the first month of the Hornet
training we went through the ground school academics and
got a real 'fire hose effect' of information and simulator
After that we proceeded via fam, nav etc. flights all the
way to strike and fighter weapons training. The VFA-125
"Rough Raiders" F/A-18 class 5-95 that I took part of also
got the Hornet IUT (Instructor Upgrade Training). All the
way through the training the attitude towards us was great.
Our IPs thought that we were hard-working and they prepared
themselves very well for the briefings and flights. The
conduct was very professional. Bubba: At which airbases in
the United States did the FAF get their training?
Jarmo: We flew most of our flights from NAS Lemoore in the
California Central Valley. The flights took place over the
Sierra Nevada Mountains or the Pacific. Strike and Fighter
Weapons Detachments took place in NAS Fallon, NV in the
Nevada high desert.
Bubba: Obviously many of your pilots got dissimilar
training versus United States "aggressor" squadrons. Which
squadrons did you train against and what were they flying?
What were the results of those training exercises?
Jarmo: During the Fighter Weapons Detachment we flew two
weeks against the VFA-127 Desert Bogeys. The squadron is
now decommissioned. They were real pros in the aggressor
duties flying F-5s and F/A-18s.
Bubba: After finishing training in the United States what
were some "trained" impressions of the F/A-18?
Jarmo: It is a very versatile fighter and the term 'Strike
fighter' suits it well. With the new F-404-GE-402 EPE
(Enhanced Performance Engine) engines it is a real rocket
Bubba: After Finland began receiving the first of its
Hornets (7 two-seater F/A-18D's and 57 single-seater
F/A-18C's) the "Attack" portion of the Hornets designation
was dropped and were renamed F-18. Given the Hornets
significant strike capability, could you discuss what
reasons prompted this change?
Jarmo: I have already mentioned earlier our emphasis in the
air defence. Finland is about the same size as California
and with 64 Hornets you can do a lot in the air-to-air
business but when you start to stretch your forces to
bombing and all sorts of other things you may run out of
aircraft and flight hours. And as they say "the Jack of all
trades is a Jack of no trade."
Bubba: The FAF still flies MiG-21's in addition to it's new
fleet of F-18's. Could you discuss the different
capabilities of the F-18 versus the MiG-21? What are the
disadvantages and advantages of both?
Jarmo: The Finnish Air Force ceases the MiG-21BIS flight
operations on the 7th of March this year and that's pretty
soon. The MiG-21 represents a totally different fighter
generation in performance, range and electronics so it
isn't very fruitful to compare the different generations.
There is one point though to the MiG's advantage - the
MiG-21BIS goes easily beyond Mach 2.0 in a climb and for
that we have a Mach 2 club in the Air Force. I have
personally been up in 70.000 ft (21 km) altitude in a full
Bubba: At your website I read that your F-18's can
supercruise. Can you give us some information on the
capabilities of the EPE engines in the F-18 and on the
APG-73 radar system? How do these compare to the F18E model
now in testing by the US Navy?
Jarmo: The F-404-GE-402 EPE engines are very powerful and
when you add the fact that our training areas are only 15
NM from the base, we fly the jets mostly 'slick' i.e.
without stores and it's cold here in the North so
performance and acceleration is just great. If we make an
afterburner takeoff during wintertime we really have to
watch that we don't overspeed the gear during initial climb
since the jet accelerates so fast.
The Finnish Air Force is not participating in the F/A-18E/F
program and the aircraft is fitted with different engines
so I don't have the information to compare the
performances. The E/F uses the same APG-73 radar so that
performance should be about the same.
Bubba: Finland was also able to convince the United States
to allow purchase of the AIM-120 (AMRAAM) missile. Could
you discuss the performance of AMRAAM and explain why it's
capabilities are so vitally important to the FAF?
Jarmo: The AIM-120 AMRAAM is an active radar guided
missile. This means that the missile has it's own radar
which is activated during the missile flight. This frees
the F-18 for other targets and is a force multiplier. For
air defenders this is very important.
Bubba: Finland has begun training in some NATO exercises.
Could you discuss the participation of the FAF in future
exercises with NATO? Is this going to become something that
is regularly done or irregular?
Jarmo: The Finnish government has stated that our security
policy is 'non-allied (not neutral) with credible
independent defense'. Finland is participating in the NATO
Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and exercises. It looks
like Finland will participate regularly in the PfP
Bubba: Often times when countries seek to purchase aircraft
from the United States they make special request from the
manufacturer to include special equipment as part of the
deal. For example, Israel requested their HMS be standard
equipment on all their F-15I's produced. Did the FAF make
any special requests for their F-18's? If so, how are the
FAF F-18's different from those of the USN?
Jarmo: Finnish F-18 Hornets have the same identification
(ID) light on the left side of the nose as the Canadians
have. We modified the torso harness system into a single
point harness that is attached to the SJU-17 NACES ejection
seat. We are also developing a Finnish-made fighter
data-link to the Hornet.
Bubba: The Boeing F/A-18E/F has taken to the skies for
carrier trials and after a short delay to fix it's wings,
is back on track to replace the F-14 Tomcat and older
F/A-18's on board US carriers. Are there any plans for the
FAF to purchase some on these new Super Hornets?
Jarmo: No, there are no plans for that at the moment. We
have our hands full in converting our Saab 35 Draken and
MiG-21BIS force into F-18C/Ds.
Bubba: Greece has been a real hot spot for recent advanced
airplane trials. Since they are planning a multi-billion
dollar purchase of advanced aircraft, many companies are
pursuing this enormous order including the Russians and
their new Su-30. Other contenders include the F-16C Block
60, Mirage 2000-5 and the F-15E. Back in 1989 the F-16C and
Mirage 2000-5 were contenders in the FAF competition, the
Su-30 did not exist as a production aircraft, but the F-15E
did. Many aviation people consider the Strike Eagle as the
"Master of Air and Ground" and is considered the "favorite"
to win the Greece order. Why did the FAF not consider the
F-15E as a viable candidate?
A screen shot from F/A 18 Hornet Korea...
Jarmo: The initial plan was to buy light single engined
fighters because of our emphasis in air defense. The F-15E
really doesn't fit into this category even though it is a
great aircraft of the same 'Two-engined, twin-tailed
McDonnell (now Boeing)' quality.
Bubba: I can't thank you enough for answering these
detailed questions. It is a pleasure to hear how other
countries besides the United States feel about their
Hornets. Obviously it is a fantastic aircraft and I hope
the F-18 continues to serve the Finish Air Force in
excellent fashion. Good luck with all your piloting Jarmo!!
Jarmo: Thank you very much Bubba. It was a pleasure to
answer your professional questions. Finally I would like to
invite all the visitors of the Combat Simulations site to
our two sites: Fighter Squadron 21 and the Fighter Tactics Academy.