Finnish Pilots Visit the Virginia Air National Guard Published June 13, 2023 By Staff Sgt. Kellyann Elish, 192nd Wing JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. - Finnish Air Force pilots toured the 192nd Wing, Virginia Air National Guard, with pilots from the 149th Fighter Squadron May 16. The Virginia National Guard and Finnish Defence Forces have partnered for over 20 years since they deployed together in 2001-2002 as members of NATO’s SFOR-10 (stabilization force) Multinational Division North in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These relationships form the basis of the VANG-FDF strategic partnership. The engagements began with the Army Guard, but over the past two years, the Air Guard has developed a growing relationship with the Finnish Air Force. With Finland joining NATO, this relationship is expected to continue to strengthen. Although not a formal State Partnership Program agreement, the information exchange between the VaANG and FINAF pilots has already proven valuable to both sides. “An official state partnership would be mutually beneficial to both Finland and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Lt. Col. Lawrence Dietrich, 149th Fighter Squadron commander. “The Virginia Air National Guard 149th FS is leading USAF efforts in Agile Combat Employment - an area where there is much to learn from the Finnish Air Force as they operate with an ACE mindset daily. Additionally, the 149th has tremendous experience with fifth-generation fighter integration tactics and can provide this expertise to Finland as they begin to procure F-35s and fly them alongside their existing F-18 fleet.” During this recent trip, the FINAF and VaANG pilots discussed ACE techniques used by the Finns, focusing on austere distributed communications and dispersal operations. The Finnish pilots toured an F-22 and discussed fighter integration operations, leveraging the VaANG pilots’ experiences in fourth and fifth generations. In August, members of the VaANG visited Helsinki, Finland, and met with numerous defense officials to discuss a formal state partnership. Following discussions in Helsinki, VaANG pilots visited Finland’s Air Combat Center in Tampere, engaging in tactical talks about the challenges both nations face. The National Guard’s State Partnership Program has been successfully building relations for 30 years and now includes 88 partnerships with 100 nations around the globe. Through SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals but also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres. The FINAF and VaANG plan to engage in two upcoming exercises, German Air Defender 2023 and Ruska 2023, and continue discussing ACE and fighter integration.