In a historic move, Finland has opened its airspace for NATO surveillance and intelligence missions, allowing the alliance to monitor Russian activities more closely in the region.
The first surveillance flight in Finnish airspace was conducted in cooperation with the United States on Thursday 23 March 2023. The flight involved both manned and unmanned aircraft that operated under national direction and supervision, in accordance with Finnish national laws and regulations. The details of the flight were not disclosed for operational security reasons. Similar flights in Finnish airspace will be carried out in the future as well with different types of aircraft, both unmanned and manned.
This decision comes after Finland and Sweden joined a new initiative launched by 16 NATO Allies in February 2023, called Alliance Persistent Surveillance from Space (APSS).
APSS is a virtual constellation of both national and commercial space assets, such as satellites, that leverages the latest advances in commercial space technology. It aims to streamline data collection, sharing and analysis among NATO Allies and with the NATO command structure, while generating cost savings. It also provides a powerful asset for civil-military cooperation and innovation.
According to NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană, APSS will significantly improve NATO’s intelligence and surveillance, and provide essential support to NATO’s military missions and operations. He also praised Luxembourg’s early contribution of 16.5 million euros that laid the groundwork for this transformative initiative.
Finland’s participation in APSS reflects its deepening cooperation with NATO on security issues, especially in light of Russia’s growing assertiveness and military modernization. Finland is not a member of NATO but has been a partner since 1994 and participates in many NATO-led operations and exercises. Finland also hosts the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, which works closely with NATO.
By opening its airspace for NATO surveillance and intelligence missions, Finland hopes to enhance its situational awareness and deterrence posture in the Baltic Sea region. It also hopes to contribute to regional stability and security by sharing information with other partners. Finland’s decision has been welcomed by other Nordic countries as well as by the United States.
In May 2022, Finland applied to join NATO along with Sweden, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of tensions in Eastern Europe. Finland’s decision was supported by most of its political parties and public opinion, as well as by NATO itself.