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F/A 18 Interview with Jarmo Lindberg
by Bubba "Masterfung" Wolford
 

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.

Click to continue

 

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.

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