Finland to close main highway for fighter jet landing drill

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HELSINKI, (Reuters) – Finland will close down a stretch of one of its main highways for a week in September to allow its Air Force to practise takeoffs and landings on a road designed to serve as a reserve runway in wartime, local authorities said.

In recent months, the Nordic country has significantly increased its military training as it applies for membership of the NATO alliance as a result of its eastern neighbour Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland, which fought back an invasion attempt by the Soviet Union during WW2, has been preparing its military for possible aggression by Russia for decades.

“The Air Force regularly rehearses relying on places beyond its home bases in order to be able to spread the aircraft rapidly across the country if need be,” the Finnish Air Force Academy said in a statement.

Finland has more than a dozen emergency landing strips that were built on highways around the country mainly in the 1960s and 1970s but its Defence Forces have not practised on the main South-North road connection for decades due to the inconvenience for traffic.

Closing down a 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) leg of the E75 arterial highway in southern Finland will send around 7,000 cars daily on an hour-long detour, regional manager Jari Mikkonen of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment said.

The drill, involving around 200 military staff and Finland’s existing F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, older Hawk Mk 51 trainer planes and other military aircraft, will take place during the last week of September.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen, editing by Ed Osmond

Photo courtesy Finland Air Force

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