F/A-18 Interview with Jarmo Lindberg - Page 1/1


Created on 2005-01-16

Title: F/A-18 Interview with Jarmo Lindberg
By: Bubba 'Masterfung' Wolford
Date: 1997-01-27 2287
Flashback: Orig. Multipage Version
Hard Copy: Printer Friendly

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 aircraft.

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!

RAAF F18
Photo by Neville Dawson. ©Air Force Today Magazine

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 Force (FAF)?

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

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 Force

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 Finland.

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 war.

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.

Knights of the Northern Sky: Brewster Buffalo

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 publicly.

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?

Super Hornet

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 forces.

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.

Hornet North

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 in F/A-18's?

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 flying.

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.

HORNET

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 ship.

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 pressure suit.

F18 Cockpit

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 exercises.

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?

F18E Carrier Landing

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?

Check Six
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.

Best regards,
Jarmo Lindberg

For more information on the F18 go to: F/A 18 Hornet



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