The Finnish Air Force (FAF, FiAF) (Ilmavoimat, "Air Forces"), is the air force of Finland. It was founded in 1918 and known as Ilmailuvoimat until 1938.


World War I and interwar era

The Finnish Air Force was founded during the Finnish Civil War in early 1918 as the flying branch of the White Guards, although the opposing Red Guards also had their own flying corps. It bought its first aircraft, a NAB Albatros on 20 February 1918, but a Thulin Typ D donated by Swedish count Eric von Rosen entered service before it. The Thulin was painted with von Rosen's personal symbols of luck, blue swastikas, which became the FAF's first insignia. Initially the FAF relied mainly on captured Russian aircraft and then on German aircraft, until Germany was defeated in World War I. Later the FAF began to briefly favour French aircraft until ceasing to prefer any particular country in the mid-1920s. Attempts to become self-reliant by developing indigenous aircraft like the IVL Haukka were not successful.

As the threat of a new World War grew in the late1930s, the FAF high command argued over whether they should build a strictly defensive air force that relies almost entirely on fighters, or buy Bristol Blenheim bombers that could provide give the FAF strategic offensive capabilities. The latter suggestion won, and the FAF ordered 18 Blenheim Mk Is while the Valtion lentokonetehdas (State Aircraft Factory, VL) built 15 more under licence. This decision limited the amount of fighters the FAF could buy, and has been retrospectively viewed as a mistake.

World War II

On 30 November 1939 the Soviet Union attacked Finland in what became known as the Winter War. The Soviet AF had the advantage in both the number and performance of its aircraft, but the FAF pilot training was considered to be superior. The FAF's only decent fighters were 40 Fokker D.XXIs, although even they were obsolescent. Still, the FAF managed to hold back the Soviet aerial offensives quite well, claiming 218 kills for the loss of 62 aircraft.

In June 1941 the FAF was much better equipped, as Finland invaded Soviet Union together with Germany. New Brewster B-239 fighters secured air superiority, claiming to achieve a kill ratio of 32 to 1. In 1943 the FAF bought new Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs from Germany. However, from 1943 the Soviet AF again achieved an advantage in aircraft quality, as new aircraft deliveries from Germany had stalled. In summer 1944 the Soviets launched a major offensive and smashed through the Finnish lines. The FAF fought with at a disadvantage, but helped to prevent the Finnish Army from collapsing completely. The war ended in September 1944, when Finland was forced to accept peace.

The blue swatika insignia was replaced with a roundel in 1945 due to political reasons, even though the FAF swastika had nothing to do with the Nazi swastika. The 1947 Paris Peace Treaty limited the FAF's size to 60 combat aircraft, and prohibited it from owning bombers with an internal bomb bay, stripping the FAF of its offensive capabilities.

Cold War

During the late 1940s and early 1950s the FAF was stuck with its old Bf 109s that couldn't realistically fight jet fighters like the F-86 Sabre or the MiG-15. Finland declared political neutrality, which made both NATO and the Soviet Union reluctant to sell advanced combat aircraft to it. Furthermore, Finland was still relatively poor, and recovering from World War II, so the FAF could only buy cheap, obsolescent aircraft like the de Havilland Vampire. Over time Finland was more and more often viewed as a Soviet satellite state in the West. In the 1960s the Soviet Union wished Finland to act as a buffer against a possible NATO attack, and agreed to sell new MiG-21F fighters in 1963. They became the FAF's first potent combat aircraft since the Bf 109Gs in 1943. They were supplanted by second-hand Saab J35 Drakens from early 1970s onwards.

The 1980s were a decade of generous spending, as the FAF bought 50 BAe Hawk Mk51s from UK and 30 Valmet Vinkas. However, the end of the Cold War in early 1990s and a great depression limited the spending, but the FAF nevertheless ordered 64 McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornets to replace the MiG-21Bis and Saab Draken.

Current inventory

Fixed-wing aircraft

Aircraft Role Number In service Country of origin Code letters
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet Fighter 62 1995- USA HN
BAe Hawk Fighter trainer 75 1980- UK HW
Valmet L-70 Vinka Basic trainer 1980- Finland VN
Grob G115E Basic trainer 28 2016- Germany GO
Pilatus PC-12 Light transport 6 2010- Switzerland PI
CASA C-295M Medium transport 3 2008- Spain CC
Gates Learjet 35 Transport 3 1982- USA LJ


The helicopters officially belong to the Ground Forces.

Aircraft Role Number In service Country of origin Code letters
NHIndustries NH90 Transport 20 2008- EU NH
Hughes MD500 Multipurpose 7 1975- USA HH

Retired inventory

Aircraft Role Number In service Country of origin Code letters Notes
Adaridi AD 3 1 1924-1931 Finland
Aero A-11 Reconnaissance 8 1927-1939 Czechoslovakia AE
Aero A-32 Bomber 16 1929-1944 Czechoslovakia AEj
Airspeed Envoy Transport 1 1942-1943 UK EV
Avro 504K Trainer 1 1926-1930 UK AV
Avro Anson Bomber trainer 3 1936-1947 UK AN
Blackburn Ripon Maritime patrol UK RI
Brequet 14A.2 Reconnaissance 1919-1927 France BR
Brewster B-239 Fighter USA BW
Bristol Bulldog Fighter UK BU
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander Transport 1 1974-1975 UK BN
Caudron C.59 France
Caudron C.60 France CA
Caudron C.714 Light fighter 1940 France CA
Caudron G.3 France
Caudron G.4 France
Curtiss Hawk 75 Fighter 44 1941-1948 USA CU
Curtiss P-40M Fighter 1 1944-1945 USA KH
de Havilland DH.60 Moth UK
de Havilland Tiger Moth Liaison 1 1940-1944 UK MO Interned from Norway
DFW C.V Germany
Fiat G.50 Fighter 35 1940-1946 Italy FA
Fieseler Fi 156 Storch Liaison 2 Germany ST
Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz Basic trainer 35 1940-1960 Germany SZ
Focke-Wulf Fw 58 Weihe Liaison 1 1943-1944 Germany FH
Fokker C.V Netherlands FO
Fokker C.X Fighter Netherlands FK
Fokker D.VII Fighter Germany
Fokker D.X Fighter 1 1923-1926 Netherlands
Fokker D.XXI Fighter Netherlands FR
Fokker F.27 Transport 3 1980-2015 Netherlands FF
Fouga CM.170 Magister Fighter trainer France FM
Friedrichshafen FF 33 Germany
Friedrichshafen FF 41 Germany
Friedrichshafen FF 49 Germany
Georges Levy G.L. 40 France
Gloster Gamecock Fighter UK GA
Gloster Gauntlet Fighter trainer 24 1940-1945 UK GT
Gloster Gladiator Fighter UK GL
Gourdou-Leseurre GL-21/22 Fighter France
Hawker Hurricane Fighter 13 1940-1944 UK HC (originally HU)
Høver M.F. 11 Maritime reconnaissance 3 1940-1944 Norway NK
Ilyushin DB-3 Bomber Soviet Union Captured
Ilyushin Il-4 Bomber 4 Soviet Union DF Captured
Ilyushin Il-28 Target tug Soviet Union NH
IVL A.22 Hansa Maritime patrol 1922-1936 Finland IL
IVL C.24 Fighter 1 Finland
IVL C.25 Fighter 1 Finland
IVL Haukka Fighter 3 Finland HA
IVL K.1 Kurki 1 Finland
Junkers A.35 Germany
Junkers A50 Junior Germany
Junkers K 43 Germany JU
Junkers W 34 Germany
Koolhoven F.K.52 2 1940-1943 Netherlands KO
Letov Š-218 Basic trainer Czechoslovakia
LVG C.VI Germany
Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard Fighter UK MA
Messerschmitt Bf 109G Fighter Germany MT
Morane-Saulnier MS.50 France MS
Morane-Saulnier MS 406 Fighter France MS
N.A.B. Albatros typ 9 / typ 17
Nieuport 10 France
Nieuport 17 France
Nieuport 21 France
Polikarpov I-15bis Fighter 1940-1945 Soviet Union Captured
Polikarpov I-16 Fighter Soviet Union Captured
Polikarpov I-153 Fighter Soviet Union Captured
Polikarpov U-2 Liaison 4 1942-1950 Soviet Union Captured
Potez 25 France
Rumpler 6B Germany
Rumpler C.VIII Germany
Saab 17 Target tug 2 1959-1961 Sweden SH
Saab 91 Safir Basic trainer 36 1958-1982 Sweden SF
SIAI S.9 Italy
SPAD S.34 France
Stetinin M-5 Russia
Stetinin M-9 Russia
Stetinin M-15 Russia
Stetinin M-16 6 Russia
Svenska Aero Jaktfalken Trainer Sweden JF
Thulin Typ D Sweden
Thulin LA Sweden
Tupolev SB-2 Anti-submarine Soviet Union SB (initially VP) Captured
Valmet Tuuli III Trainer 1 1957-1959 Finland TL
Valmet Vihuri Fighter trainer 51 1951-1959 Finland VH
VL Humu Fighter 1 Finland HM
VL Kotka Maritime patrol 6 1931-1944 Finland KA
VL Myrsky Fighter / Reconnaissance 51 1944-1947 Finland MY
VL Paarma Basic trainer 1 Finland PA
VL Pyry Fighter trainer 1939-1962 Finland PY
VL Pyörremyrsky Fighter 1 1945-1947 Finland PM
VL Sääski Multi-purpose 1928-1943 Finland
VL Tuisku Multi-purpose 31 1935-1950 Finland TU
VL Tuuli II Trainer 1 Finland
VL Viima Trainer 1936-1962 Finland VI
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