Finland regions

Finland closes highway for Air Force runway exercises

Image for article titled Finland closes highway for Air Force runway exercises

Photo: @FinnishAirForce / Twitter

There is a long and widespread myth here in the United States that one in five miles of the interstate highway system is straight. The fallacy behind the myth is that the causeway could be used as an airstrip by US armed forces to defend the country in the event of an invasion by a foreign power. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has continually fervently denied and debunked the myth.

For example, the FHWA has published an article on the myth in a 2000 issue of Public roads, the agency’s internal quarterly magazine. The article was written by Richard F. Weingroff, the agency’s unofficial historian and a United States Air Force veteran. Weingroff spent most of the article exploring the misunderstood origin of the myth. He concluded by writing, “No law, regulation, policy, or piece of bureaucracy requires that every fifth mile of the Interstate Highway System be straight. Trust me. Please!” This is not quite the case in other parts of the world, such as Finland.

This week, Finland has closed a 2.8-mile section of a major highway for the Finnish Air Force to perform pavement training exercises. Two hundred personnel, the service’s F/A-18 Hornet fighters, Hawk Mk 51 trainers and several other aircraft participated in the exercises. Exercises included preparing the highway for flight operations, practicing takeoffs, landings, and aircraft maintenance, including hot refueling. Hot refueling refers to refueling an aircraft with its engines running.

Colonel Vesa Mantyla, the commander of the Finnish Air Force Academy, Told Reuters, “I believe mainly that all road bases are in fairly good condition, so easily taken into operations within a few days.” This stretch of highway and several others across Finland were actually designed to be used as reserve tracks for national defense. It is estimated that 7,000 drivers will have to make a one-hour detour around the military exercises.

The reason why these road drills were deemed necessary should not be overlooked. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened tensions across Eastern Europe. Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership, and even current NATO members in the region fear they may be the Russian military’s next target. I wouldn’t call myself a pacifist, but armed military conflict is horrible for everyone involved and should be seen as an absolute last resort. However, it is vital that a country’s military demonstrates its ability to defend itself as a deterrent against foreign aggression. The best war is the war that is never fought.