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Cobra Warrior 23 to strengthen the cooperation with the Royal Air Force

Air Force
Publication date 16.3.2023 8.30
News item
A Finnish F/A-18 Hornet taking off
A Finnish F/A-18 Hornet at RAF Waddington. Photo: Finnish Air Force.

The deepened defence cooperation between Finland and the United Kingdom plays a role in the Finnish Air Force’s exercise activity in 2023. At the moment, six Finnish F/A-18 Hornet multi-role fighters are deployed to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

The Finnish Air Force participates in the Royal Air Force’s biannual Cobra Warrior exercise for the first time in March 2023. The objective of the three-week exercise is to train the participants in multinational air operations. 

‒ The Cobra Warrior 23 exercise provides our experienced F/A-18 Hornet pilots with an opportunity to plan large-force multinational air operations. In addition, our youngest pilots and ground crews gain valuable practical experience in cooperating with international partners and deploying to a foreign air base. For many of our detachment’s younger airmen, this is the first large exercise abroad, says Lieutenant Colonel Eetu Rikkinen, Commander, Fighter Squadron 31, Karelia Air Wing.

The Cobra Warrior exercises are run by the RAF Air & Space Warfare Centre and 92 Squadron, both based at RAF Waddington, and specialized in developing air combat tactics and training. International cooperation is a keystone of the exercise series, because the participating nations may include not only NATO members and JEF nations, but also the United Kingdom’s other partner nations from all around the world. Consequently, the exercise involves several different fighter types, enabling the combination of diverse fighter tactics and the development of air combat training. 

Finnish F/A-18 Hornets refueling from a RAF Voyager tanker. Photo: Finnish Air Force.


70 aircraft, fighters from six countries

This time, in total around 70 aircraft are taking part. Both large-force multinational waves and smaller national or bilateral waves will be flown during the three-week exercise. The large multinational waves will include defensive and offensive counter-air operations (DCA & OCA), counter-land operations with RAF Regiment Precision Strike Teams, and air-to-air refueling. The smaller waves, on the other hand, will include tactical air combat training and low-altitude flying in training areas located across the United Kingdom. 

In addition to Finnish and British fighter aircraft, the first Cobra Warrior exercise of 2023 involves fast jets from the U.S., Belgian, Indian and Saudi-Arabian air forces. The fighter types participating in the exercise are Eurofighter Typhoon, F/A-18 Hornet, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 and Mirage 2000. The RAF Typhoons operate out of RAF Coningsby and RAF Lossiemouth. The Finnish F/A-18s, the Belgian F-16s and the Indian Mirage 2000s fly from RAF Waddington, the U.S. F-15Es from RAF Lakenheath, and the Saudi-Arabian Typhoons from RAF Coningsby. The large-force multinational air operations are supported by British, U.S. and French air-to-air refueling tankers. 

The Cobra Warrior 23 exercise will strengthen the interoperability between the Finnish Air Force and the Royal Air Force, supporting future cooperation within NATO. Finland’s participation in the exercise is part of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) cooperation. Finland joined the JEF in 2017.