Navy, USAF Team to Train Finn Pilots

Finnish Air Force pilots have been flying F-18 Hornets since the mid-1990s, but they largely did not have air-to-air refueling experience. To rectify that situation, the US Navy sent F-18 pilots and USAF sent 10 airmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England to Finland earlier this month to train the Finnish pilots how to tank up off a KC-135. Finland is part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, which US Air Forces in Europe supports. The US F-18 pilots arrived first to begin the indoctrination and found, said Navy Lt. Chris Williams, that even though they fly the same aircraft, “there are a lot of differences” in operating styles. The 16 Finnish pilots in the training got one flight in a two-seat F-18 with an instructor and two flights in a single-seat F-18, making six solid connections to receive qualification. They, in turn, are to train other Finnish pilots. For the Mildenhall airmen, the enterprise enabled them to gain experience with the probe and drogue refueling system employed with the F-18s. Capt. Aaron Torczynshi, KC-135 aircraft commander, said, “Any time these guys get to step outside the norm and hone their skills on something they don’t see every day is a great benefit for the Air Force.” (RAF Mildenhall report by SSgt. Austin May)