CONSTANTA, Romania, June 12 (Reuters) – Finland on Tuesday made its first deployment for NATO since joining the alliance in April 2023, sending seven F-18 fighter jets to a military base in southeastern Romania where they will conduct air shielding missions with Romanian and British jets.

A Finnish Air Force commander said the mission would help speed up Finland’s integration into NATO.

“I’m sure that during this enhanced air policing air shielding mission our integration into NATO will take a big leap forward,” Johan Anttila, commander of Finland’s Karelia Air Wing told soldiers on the tarmac at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base.

“We as a team will have learned a lot and all this will boost NATO deterrence and defence.”

Finland’s accession, ending seven decades of military non-alignment, roughly doubled the length of the border the North Atlantic Treaty Organization shares with Russia and bolstered its eastern flank amid Moscow’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Romania, a NATO member since 2004, was among the first alliance states to approve Finland’s accession. Romania shares a 650-km (400-mile) border with Ukraine and has had Russian drone fragments stray into its territory repeatedly as Moscow attacks Ukrainian ports just across the Danube River that separates the countries.

It also hosts a NATO-backed regional F-16 training hub where Ukrainian pilots will soon begin learning how to fly F-16 jets provided by the Netherlands.

Picture Rob Vogelaar

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