The Finnish Armed Forces pre-announced the U.S. flight and made a statement saying “There have been no changes in Finland’s military security situation or environment in the recent past. Flight operations with international partners are art of normal bilateral and multilateral cooperation.”
However, Thursday’s flight was all but normal. This is the first time in history that a U.S. RC-135 Rivet Joint made a sortie inside Finnish airspace.
The plane, which took off from Mildenhall Air Base north of London, first flew over the Baltic States before entering Finnish airspace east of Helsinki. The large reconnaissance aircraft continued north all along the border with Russia.
Unlike when Russian military aircraft are flying over international airspace in Europe, the U.S. RC-135 had its transponder system turned on, making it visible even to public air traffic tracking systems like FlightRadar24.com.
A few kilometers inside the Arctic Circle, the American aircraft turned 180 degrees and followed the same path south. The northernmost part of the flight crossed over Rovaniemi airport, home to Lapland Air Command which is in charge of Finland’s air defense and surveillance in the north.
As previously reported by the Barents Observer, Rovaniemi Air Base will be the first to receive new F-35 fighter jets as Finland starts replacing the current fleet of F/A-18 Hornets in 2026.
Military expert Per Erik Solli with the Norwegian Institute of Foreign Affairs’ research group on security and defense says the flight was significant as NATO “now can use the airspace over mid- and northern Finland to collect information about the Kola-base complex area.”
Russia’s Kola Peninsula is home to Putin’s fleet of ballistic missile submarines, multi-purpose submarines with long-range cruise missiles, and supersonic bomber planes.
The RC-135 Rivet Joint carries monitoring sensors supporting NATO intelligence with near real-time on-scene electronic