From now on dozens of F-35s will fly 124 miles from St. Petersburg
Russia’s future post-war defense is faced with a serious test or challenge. Depends on the viewpoint. It is about accepting Finland as a full member of NATO. This happened on April 4th.
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Immediately after Finland acceded to the North Atlantic Alliance, negotiations began. According to sources, Washington wants to create large infrastructural military bases in the Scandinavian country. How reliable this information is, we will only know over time. But the first challenge that Russia will necessarily have to take on is the presence of the F-35 in close proximity to the Russian border.
124 miles [200 km] is the distance from the nearest Finnish border point to Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg. An extremely key military strategic metropolis, especially in the area of Russia’s naval offensive capabilities. St. Petersburg is the headquarters and military command of the entire Russian Navy.
According to BulgarianMilitary.com sources, Washington will want to deploy much more of the F-35 fighter in Finland than planned. Currently, it is known that the Finns have ordered and are expecting 64 Lockheed F-35A Block 4 fighters. They are intended for the inventory of the Finnish Air Force [FAF or FiAF]. The F-35s are to replace Finland’s aging Boeing F/A-18 Hornet  multirole fighters. This means that in the coming years, the Russian border with Finland will be almost regularly scanned by the F-35.
The US wants more
However, the US wants more, according to various expert comments. With possible new military infrastructures funded by Washington or jointly with Helsinki, the Pentagon intends to send its equipment and deploy American forces to Finland. Strategic geographic proximity to Russia could make Finland a lessor of US B61 nuclear bombs. Just like Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey.
It seems that Helsinki will have the last word. According to posts on the web, the negotiations are expected to be completed next year. The war in Ukraine currently does not influence such a decision, as this is a long-term strategy and a post-war one at that. There are opinions that Helsinki is ready to give great freedom to the Americans on the territory of Finland. The reason for this is Finland’s desire to build a military that has greater interoperability with the US military.
The F-35 in Finland and the expected flights during a patrol or a joint Finnish-US-NATO exercise will turn the existing border between Russia and Finland into a heavily militarized zone. Moscow will be forced to build a network of radars and air defense systems. Knowing what Russia currently has at its disposal, the deployment of the Iskander ballistic missile systems, as well as the S-400 Triumf air defense systems and the latest S-500 Prometheus are completely logical moves by the Russian command.
Undoubtedly, the F-35 will put pressure on Russian air defenses. The F-35 is designed for ground attack and deep penetration of a country’s air defenses. Stealth capabilities will seriously test the S-400, which is said to “hunt” stealth fighters on its radars. At the same time after St. Petersburg, the region’s navies and air defense systems can be targeted by the F-35, so the F-35 automatically becomes a critical target for Moscow.
Finnish and Russian airbases
According to open data from 2018, there are four air bases located in the territory of Finland. Tampere-Pirkkala Air Base is located in southern Finland and is the operational center of military flights of the Finnish Air Force. Kuopio Air Base is located in Central Finland and is the base from which a portion of the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet attack aircraft operate. Rovaniemi Air Base is located in the North and controls the border with Sweden and Norway. Hornets also fly at this base. The last military base is Jyväskylä–Tikkakoski Air Base. It is located in south-central Finland and is primarily used for training Finnish pilots.
Russia will have to guarantee its air defense not only with air defense systems and ballistic missiles but also with fighters. Currently, the S-400, S-300, and Pantsir-S1M guard the border with Finland through the forces of the 2nd Air Defense Division. The 6th Air and Air Defense Forces Army is equipped with Su-27, Su-30, Su-35, and Su-57 fighters. Su-24 bombers and MiG-31 interceptors are stationed at the base.
The Cold War is not over yet
At some point, two fifth-generation stealth fighters will fly along the Russian-Finnish border – the F-35 of the Finnish Air Force and the Su-57 of the Russian Air Force. Although the Su-57 is still in very limited quantities [10-11 units], this fighter already has more combat experience than the F-35. Ukraine opened wide opportunities to test beyond visual range capabilities and jamming and EW capabilities of the Su-57.
However, the Su-57 cannot boast of some technologies integrated into the F-35 or even the Chinese J-20.
Undoubtedly, the F-35 will now pose a greater threat to Russia. This fighter will be located literally next to Russia and will allow scanning and reconnaissance of Russian weapons systems. This is from the Finnish side. It remains to be seen whether Helsinki will join hands with Washington to deploy American troops and equipment in the cold Finnish territories. Who said the Cold War was over?
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