Finnish Air Force Fokker D-XXI List
Finnish Air Force Morane-Saulnier MS-406 models

Winter War - 30th Nov 1939 to 13th Mar 1940

The aerial warfare in the Winter War was the aerial aspect of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union from 30 November 1939 to 13 March 1940. While the Soviet air forces greatly outnumbered the Finnish Air Force, the Soviet bombing campaign was largely ineffective, and Finnish pilots and antiaircraft gunners inflicted significant losses on the Soviets.

Soviet Air Force

The Soviet Union enjoyed air superiority throughout the war. The Soviet Air Force, supported the Red Army's invasion with about 2,500 aircraft of the Soviet Air Forces, (the most common of which was the Tupolev SB-2 bomber,[W-1] which had shown its effectiveness during the Spanish Civil war. However the VVS was not as effective as the Soviets might have hoped. The material damage by bomber attacks was slight, as Finland did not offer many valuable targets for strategic bombing. Targets were often small village depots of small value. Finland had only a few modern highways, so the railway systems were the main target for bombers. The rail tracks were cut thousands of times but were easily repaired, and the Finns usually had trains running in a matter of hours.[W-1] The damage inflicted on Finnish targets was also diminished by poor navigation technique, and minimal bombing accuracy on the part of the Soviets[W-2] and Finnish casualties were reduced by effective air-raid precautions. However the Soviet air force learned from its early mistakes, and by late February they instituted more effective tactics.[W-3] One such success was the strike against the Ruokolahti airfield on 29 February 1940. At noon on that day 40 I-16 and I-153 fighters struck the base, destroying three aircraft on the ground and another three (two Gladiators and one Fokker) for the loss of only one I-16.[W-2]

Finland's capital city, Helsinki, was bombed on the first day of the war; a number of buildings were destroyed and some 200 people were killed.[W-4] However the city was the target of raids only a few times thereafter. All in all, Finland lost only 5 percent of its total man-hour production time due to Soviet bombings. Nevertheless, bombings affected thousands of civilians as the Soviets launched 2,075 bombing attacks on 516 localities.[W-1] Air raids killed 957 Finnish civilians.[W-5] The city of Viipuri, a major Soviet objective, was almost leveled by nearly 12,000 bombs.[W-6] No attacks on civilian targets were mentioned in Soviet radio or newspaper reports. In January 1940, Pravda continued to stress that no civilian targets in Finland had been struck, even by accident.[W-7]

Soviet aircraft

At the start of hostilities the Soviet Air Force had the following aircraft in service:[W-8]

Soviet aircraft used in the Winter War
I-15: biplane fighter (Chaika-'seagull')
I-15 bis : (improved version of I-15)
I-16 monoplane fighter (Ishak-'donkey'; called Siipiorava, 'flying squirrel' by the Finns)
I-16 bis
I-153 biplane fighter (also called the Chaika; a variant of the I-15)
DB-3 twin engined long-range bomber
SB-2 twin engined high-speed bomber (Katyusha- 'Catherine')
SB-2 bis
TB-3 four-engined heavy bomber
Po-2 multi-purpose biplane (kukuruznik-'crop-duster')
Naval aviation
MBR-2 multi-purpose flying boat
MBR2 bis

Figures of Soviet losses during the conflict vary from source to source; One estimate puts the loss at 700–900 aircraft, the majority of them bombers:[W-2] Against this Finnish losses were 62 aircraft, with a further 59 damaged beyond repair.[W-9] Another states Finnish aircraft shot down 240 Soviet aircraft, with anti-aircraft fire accounting for 314 to 444 others.[W-10]

Finnish Air Force

At the beginning of the war, Finland had a very small air force, with only 114 combat airplanes fit for duty. Therefore, Finnish air missions were very limited and fighter aircraft were mainly used to repel Soviet bombers. Old-fashioned and few in numbers, Finnish aircraft could not offer support to the Finnish ground troops. Therefore, the Finnish Air Force adopted the same guerilla tactics used by Finnish ground forces, dispersing to makeshift airfields often consisting only of a frozen lake.[W-11] In spite of aircraft losses throughout the war, the Finnish Air Force grew by 50 percent by the end of the war. Most new aircraft shipments arrived during January 1940.[W-12]

The Finnish Air Force had also revised its tactics; In air combat, the Finns used the more flexible 'finger four' formation (four planes split into two pairs, one flying low and the other high, with each plane fighting independently of the others, yet supporting its wingman in combat), which was superior to the Soviet tactic of three fighters flying in a Vic formation. This formation and the credo of Finnish pilots to always attack, no matter the odds, contributed to the failure of Soviet bombers to inflict substantial damage against Finnish positions and population centres.[W-13]

Finnish fighter pilots often dove into Soviet formations that outnumbered them ten or even twenty times, and Soviet bomber formations became wary of even single Finnish fighters, as they knew the pilot would not let them pass un-noticed. Entire squadrons could disappear on missions over Finland, and those back at their bases in Estonia could only guess at what had happened.[W-14] On one occasion, the Finnish ace Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto encountered a formation of seven DB-3 bombers on 6 January 1940 and shot down six in just 4 minutes.[W-2]

Finnish aircraft

At the start of hostilities, the Finnish Air Force had 146 aircraft of all types at its disposal, organized into 12 squadrons. The primary fighter aircraft were

Finnish Air Force aircraft used in the Winter War
15 Bristol Bulldog IVs, which had entered service in 1935,
41 of the more modern Fokker D.XXI
65 older Fokker aircraft of various types; Fokker C.X and Fokker C.V
15 Blackburn Ripons

There were also 18 license-built Bristol Blenheim bombers. In 1939, an order had been placed in Italy for 25 Fiat G.50 fighters; two were being assembled in Sweden when the war broke out.

During the war, a number of aircraft were ordered from abroad:[W-13]

Finnish Air Force aircraft ordered from abroad
30 Gloster Gladiator II biplane fighters from the United Kingdom
12 Bristol Blenheim IV bombers from the United Kingdom
30 Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters from France
44 Brewster 239 fighters from the United States
24 Gloster Gauntlet trainers from South Africa
10 Fiat G.50 fighters from Italy
12 Hawker Hurricane I fighters from the United Kingdom
12 Westland Lysander reconnaissance planes from United Kingdom
2 Bristol Bulldog from Sweden
3 J6B Jaktfalken biplane trainers from Sweden
3 Fokker C.V.D reconnaissance planes from Sweden
2 Koolhoven F.K.52 reconnaissance planes and 1 Douglas DC-2 transport plane from Count von Rosen, Sweden
6 Caudron C.714 fighters from France - never entered service because of their unsuitability to operate from the short field landing strips.

Also there was a Swedish volunteer squadron named Flight Regiment 19, Finnish Air Force taking care of the air defence of Northern Finland. It was equipped with 12 Gloster Gladiator II biplane fighters and 5 Hawker Hart biplane bombers.

Owing to this reinforcement, the Finnish Air Force had a greater strength at the end of the conflict than at the beginning; however they were seldom able to field more than 100 aircraft at any one time against an expanding VVS commitment.[W-2]

Finnish fighters shot down 240 confirmed Soviet aircraft, against the Finnish loss of 26. A Finnish forward air base often consisted of only a frozen lake, a windsock, a telephone set and some tents.[W-15] Air-raid warnings were given by Finnish women organized by the Lotta Svärd. Finnish anti-aircraft gunners shot down between 314 and 444 Soviet aircraft.[W-1]

List of units of the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War

Flying Regiment 1

  • Lentolaivue 10
  • Lentolaivue 12
  • Lentolaivue 14
  • Lentolaivue 16

Flying Regiment 2

  • Lentolaivue 22
  • Lentolaivue 24
  • Lentolaivue 26
  • Lentolaivue 28

Flying Regiment 4

  • Lentolaivue 42
  • Lentolaivue 44
  • Lentolaivue 46
  • Lentolaivue 48

F 19

  • F 19

Replenishment Regiment 1

  • Koulutuslaivue 1

Replenishment Regiment 2

  • Lentolaivue 29

Replenishment Regiment 4

  • Koulutuslaivue 4

Navy HQ

  • Lentolaivue 36
  • Täydennyslentolaivue 39


  • Ilmasotakoulu
  • Lentovarikko

Continuation War 1941-44

The Finnish Air Force was prepared better for the Continuation War, with 550 planes, though many were considered second-rate and thus 'exportable' by their countries of origin. Finland purchased a large number of aircraft during the Winter War, but few of those reached service during the short conflict. Politics also played a factor, since Hitler did not wish to antagonize the Soviet Union by allowing aircraft exports through German-controlled territory during the conflict. New aircraft types were in place by the time hostilities with Russia resumed in 1941. Small numbers of Hawker Hurricanes arrived from England, Morane-Saulnier M.S.406s from France, Fiat G.50s from Italy, a few dozen Curtiss Hawk 75s captured by the Germans in France and Norway then sold to Finland, and numerous Brewster B239s from the neutral USA strengthened the FiAF. The FiAF proved capable of holding its own in the upcoming battles with the Red Air Force. Older models, like the Fokker D.XXI and Gloster Gladiator, were replaced in front-line combat units with the new aircraft.

The FiAF's main mission was to achieve air superiority over Finland and prevent Soviet air power from reinforcing their front lines. The fighter squadrons were very successful in the Finnish offensive of 1941. A stripped-down, more maneuverable, and significantly lightened version of the American Brewster B239 'Buffalo' was the FiAF's main fighter until 1943. Results with this fighter were very good, even though the type was considered to be a failure in the US Navy & with British Far East forces. In the Finnish use, the Brewster had a victory rate of 32:1 - 459 kills while losing only 15. German Bf 109s replaced the B239 as the primary front-line fighter of the FiAF in 1943, though the Buffalos continued in secondary roles until the end. Other types, especially the Italian Fiat G.50 and Curtiss Hawk 75 also proved capable in the hands of well-trained Finnish pilots. Various Russian designs also saw action when lightly-damaged 'kills' were repaired and made airworthy.

Dornier 17s (received as a gift from Hermann Goring in 1942) and Junkers 88s gave more capacity to the bombing capability of the Finnish Air Force. The bomber units flew assorted missions with varying results, but a large part of their time was spent in training. Thus the bomber squadrons of Flying Regiment 4 were ready for the summer battles of 1944, which included for example the Battle of Tali-Ihantala.

While the FiAF was successful in its mission, the conditions were not easy. Spare parts for the FiAF planes were scarce -- parts from the US (Buffalo & Hawk), Britain (Hurricanes), and Italy (G.50) were unavailable for much of the war. Repairs took often a long time, and the State Aircraft Factory was burdened with restoration/repair of Soviet war booty planes, foreign aircraft with many hours of flight time, and the development of indigenous Finnish fighter types.

Finland was required to expel or intern remaining German forces as part of its peace agreement with the Soviets in mid-1944. As a result, the final air battles are against the retreating Luftwaffe.

The Finnish Air Force did not bomb any civilian targets during either war. Curiously, overflying Soviet towns and bases was also forbidden, as to avoid any unneeded provocations and to spare equipment.

The Finnish Air Force shot down 1621 Soviet air planes while losing 210 own planes during the Continuation war 1941-44 according to Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman's book 'Aerial Victories 1-2'.

List of units of the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War

Flying Regiment 1

  • Tiedustelulentolaivue 12
  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 32

Flying Regiment 2

  • Tiedustelulentolaivue 16
  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 28

Flying Regiment 3

  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 24
  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 26
  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 34

Flying Regiment 4

  • Pommituslentolaivue 42
  • Pommituslentolaivue 44
  • Pommituslentolaivue 46
  • Pommituslentolaivue 48

Flying Regiment 5

  • Tiedustelulentolaivue 14
  • Pommituslentolaivue 6
  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 30

Other units

  • Täydennyslentolaivue 17
  • Täydennyslentolaivue 35
  • Ilmasotakoulu
  • Koelentolaivue
  • Koelaivue
  • Lentovarikko 1
  • Lentovarikko 2

Finnish Air Force, Suomen ilmavoimat, Finska flygvapnet

Active: March 6, 1918-present
Country: Finland
Role: Air defence
Size: 3,100 personnel, 38,000 personnel mobilized
Motto: Qualitas Potentia Nostra, 'Quality is our Strength'
Engagements: Finnish Civil War, Winter War, Continuation War
Commander: Lieutenant General Heikki Lyytinen

The Finnish Air Force (FAF) (Finnish: Ilmavoimat, Swedish: Flygvapnet) is one of the branches of the Finnish Defence Forces. Its peacetime tasks are airspace surveillance, identification flights, and production of readiness formations for wartime conditions. As a separate branch of the military, the Finnish Air Force is one of the oldest in the world, having existed officially since 6 March 1918.


During the Finnish Civil War, the Whites had to rely on foreign pilots and aircraft. The official and neutral Sweden refused to send men and material, but individual Swedish citizens wanted to help the Whites. The editor of the Swedish daily magazine Aftonbladet, Waldemar Langlet, bought a N.A.B. Albatros aircraft from the Nordiska Aviatik A.B. factory with funds gathered by the Finlands vanner ('Finland's friends') organization. This was the first aircraft to arrive from Sweden. It was flown via Haparanda on 25 February 1918 by the Swedish pilots John-Allan Hygerth (who became the first commander of the Finnish Air Force on 10 March) and Per Svanback. The aircraft made a stop at Kokkola and had to make a forced landing in Jakobstad when the engine broke down. This aircraft was later given the designation F.2 in the Finnish Air Force ('F' came from the Swedish word 'Flygmaskin' (aircraft)).

The Swedish count Eric von Rosen gave the Finnish White government its second aircraft, a Thulin Typ D. A photograph of this plane can be found in the book by Christopher Shores. The pilot, Lieutenant Nils Kindberg, flew the aircraft to Vaasa on 6 March 1918, having von Rosen as a passenger. As this aircraft was given against the will of the Swedish government, and no flight permit had been given, it resulted in a 100 kronor fine for Kindberg for leaving the country without permission. This aircraft is considered by some to be the first aircraft of the Finnish Air Force, since the Finnish Air Force didn't exist during the Civil War, and since it was only the Red side who flew a few aircraft with the help of some Russian pilots. The von Rosen aircraft was given the designation F.1. The air force was officially called the 'aviation force' during its first years. The Finnish Air Force is one of the oldest air forces of the world - the RAF was founded as an independent branch on 1 April, 1918 and the Swedish Flygvapnet in 1925.

Von Rosen had painted his personal good luck charm on the Thulin Typ D aircraft. This charm - a blue swastika, the ancient symbol of good luck - was adopted as the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. The white circular background was created when the Finns tried to paint over the advertisement from the Thulin air academy advertisement. The swastika was officially taken into use after an order by Mannerheim on 18 March 1918. The FAF had to change the swastika insignia after 1945, due to an allied control commission decree, where all swastikas had to be abandoned. However, the original swastika can still be found in some regimental flags and medals, especially in the air force.

The F.1 aircraft was destroyed in an accident, killing its crew, not long after it had been handed over to the Finns. On 7 September 1920, two newly purchased Savoia flying boats crashed in the Swiss Alps en route to Finland, killing all on-board (three Finns and one Italian). This day has since then been the memorial day for pilots that have been lost.

The Finnish Air Force assigns the matriculation numbers to its aircraft by assigning each type a two-letter code following by dash and an individual aircraft number. The two-letter code refers to the aircraft type name, such as HN for F/A-18 Hornet, DK for Saab J-35 Draken, VN for Valmet Vinka etc.

Winter War 1939-40

The Winter War began on November 30, 1939, when Soviet Air Force bombed 21 Finnish cities and municipalities. The Soviet Union is estimated to have had about 5,000 airplanes in 1939, and of these, some 700 fighters and 800 medium bombers were brought to the Finnish front to support the Red Army's operations. As with most aerial bombardment of the early stages of WW2, the damage against Finnish industry and railways was very limited.

The Finnish Air Force was equipped with 17 bombers and 31 fighters at the beginning of the Winter War. There were 54 liaison aircraft but 20 of these were only used for messengers. The most modern aircraft in the Finnish arsenal were the British-designed Bristol Blenheim bombers that had been license-built in Finland. The primary fighter aircraft was the Fokker D.XXI, a cheap but maneuverable design with fabric-covered fuselage and fixed landing gear. On paper, this force should have been no match for the attacking Soviet Red Air Force.

In order to prevent their aircraft from being destroyed on the ground similar destruction, the Finns spread out their aircraft to many different airfields and hid them in the nearby forests. The Finns constructed many decoys and built shrapnel protection walls for the aircraft. Soviet air raids on Finnish airfields usually caused little or no damage as a result, and often resulted in interception of the attackers by the Finns as the bombers flew homeward.

As the war progressed, the Finns tried desperately to find aircraft wherever there were any to be purchased. This policy resulted in a very diverse aircraft inventory, which was to cause some major logistical problems until the inventory became more standardized. The Finnish Air Force was to consist of numerous American, British, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Soviet, and Swedish designs. Other countries, like South Africa and Denmark, sent aircraft as gifts. Many of these purchases and gifts didn't arrive until the end of the hostilities, but were to see action later during the Continuation and Lapland wars.

The Finnish Air Force shot down 218 Soviet aircraft during the Winter War while losing only 47 to enemy fire. The Finnish anti-aircraft is also said to have shot down 314 enemy planes. 30 Soviet planes were captured -- 'kills' that landed more or less intact within Finland and were quickly repaired.

The Finnish Air Force FAF


By Lt Gen (FAF ret) Heikki Nikunen

The Finnish Air Force was founded on 6th March 1918. There was one exceptional feature in the founding of the FAF, that it was organized right from the start as an independent branch of the armed forces. This foresight created a good basis for its development and made it one of the oldest air forces in the world.

The first aircraft was donated by a Swedish count, Erik von Rosen. On the wings of the airplane was painted his personal lucky insignia, the blue swastikas. This was the origin of the first official Finnish Air Force markings. The swastikas, still seen in many FAF traditional markings, as insignias have nothing to do with the nazi swastikas of the 1930s.

The Winter War was the first real baptism of fire for the Finnish Air Force. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany formed a pact in 1939 which resulted in the German attack on Poland in September of that year. Subsequent to that assault was the Soviet Union's attack on Finland on November of the same year.

The Defense Forces of Finland was ill-prepared for the war from a material standpoint. In the Air Force for example the number of fighters was alarmingly small. However, their training and therefore their combat readiness was fairly high. Actually, The Finnish Air Force was the inventor of the modern fighter tactics.

Before and in the beginning of the second World War the ideas of general Douhet were noticed in many air forces and accordingly the fighter forces were rather universally underestimated. Fighter tactics also was hampered by peace time formalities.

In Great Britain the two types of fighter formation were either built up from a tight vic of three aircraft or four in line-astern. The vic was a legacy of peace time flying in which the two wingmen had all their work cut out to stay near their leader and little time to search the sky. The high casualty rate of the tail-end Charlies was a grim measure of the vulnerability of the line-astern formations. During the Battle of Britain the RAF renewed both its formation tactics and training.

In Germany the Luftwaffe was founded again in 1933 and the Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff, general Wever, emphasized strategic bombers as the main aircraft of the new organization. After Wever had died in the flight accident in 1936 the new technical chief, Ernst Udet, brought from a trip to USA the idea of dive bombers as the most suitable method for the blitzkrieg philosophy. The German bi-plane fighters, Arado Ar 65/68 and Heinkel He 51, used in the Spanish Civil War, proved to be inferior compared to the adversaries I-15 and I-16 from Soviet Union. However, in 1938 both the fighters and the fighter tactics in Luftwaffe were renewed when Legion Condor got the new Bf 109 B-2 fighters in use.

In the Soviet Union the bombers had the priority in the operational planning of the air forces during the 1930s. Also the Soviet Union participated the Spanish Civil War but its Air Force elements were used as the subordinated support units to the Army and thus for example the fighter tactical lessons were unlearned. The Soviets kept on using the tight three fighters formation as the basic tactical element in air combat and the wingmen were to fire anytime the leader did so. The weapons were lined straight ahead.

Some of the first American fighter combat experiences came via Flying Tigers in China. They started by using eight fighters tight formation but canceled it soon and changed both tactics and training. Also Japanese first used rather big formations, for example fifteen Mitsubishi 96 Claude fighters in tight Vic-formation in their Chinese campaign.

In Finland the Air Force started during the years 1934 and 1935 to use the loose and broad section as the basic formation in fighter aviation. The bigger formations were built so that two sections flying side by side made a finger four division. In a flight formation two divisions flew almost side by side while the top division was much higher than the lower strike division. In divisions, the sections still operated independently. These formations, at that time differing from all international principles, were developed during fighter courses in both theoretical analyses and practical exercises.

The Finnish fighter pilots concluded that they would never have such big numbers of fighters that they could build up those great squadron formations which were used abroad to concentrate fighter power to certain areas. They also concluded that big and tight fighter formations were tactically inefficient.

The most important element in the fighter combat was surprise, and that was the goal which always had to be tried to reach for. A big and tight formation could very seldom achieve the surprise because it was easily seen from far away and the pilots couldn't keep good lookout while working to maintain their positions in the formation. On the other hand a section with the two fighters about 100 - 150 yards away from each other, or the division with 300 - 400 yards between the two sections, were found very effective in the search exercises. Every pilot was free to keep a good lookout to every direction and also all the time to check the six of the other pilots. In addition to that this kind of small and loose formation was seen much later because all of its aircraft were not always at the same time in the view of the opponent. The search phase was heavily emphasized in the training and the ability in that was an important factor in the evaluation of the fighter pilots.

When the aerial engagement began every pilot was free to maneuver in the most effective way, so, both the attacks and the evasive maneuvers could be done without any delays. The flying in the small formations meant continuous fighting against bigger numbers but this could be compensated by always attacking regardless of numbers. The fighter combat generally spread quite quickly into section fights and duels where there was no immediate benefit of the bigger numbers. In these separate combats the better pilots always won. However, this philosophy demanded that every pilot was a skillful air combatant. This skill was trained for both in the fighter courses and in the squadrons.

One of the corner stones in the skill of the fighter pilot was the complete control of his aircraft. This was trained by aerobatics and combat maneuvers, and also by intentional mismaneuvering. In the classic one versus one and two versus two exercises and in the practice attacks on bomber targets the combat maneuvers were trained as instinctive actions. In practical exercises the simple maneuvers were found to be the best ones.

It was also found in training that one of the most important skills of fighter pilot was the shooting accuracy; the ability to judge the right deflection during maneuvering, to estimate the right shooting distance and to concentrate the fire on the point target, for example on some vulnerable part of the target airplane. The shooting training became an essential, and in times dominating, part of the fighter training.

When the Winter War started the Finnish fighter tactics differed from almost all other countries` tactical principles. Only the Germans had started to use similar methods during the Spanish Civil War. There was no certainty of how this tactics would do in the merciless test of war. The numbers of the attacking Soviet Union seemed to be crushingly overwhelming. However, there was no hesitation about the defense task in the flying units. At least in that sense the training had succeeded; it had created a fighter pilot cadre with high motivation and self-confidence.

The war experiences proved both the tactics and the training to be right and as a result, the main fighters Fokker D.XXIs were able to achieve an exchange ratio (kills in air combat versus losses in air combat) of 16:1 against Soviet combat aircraft. This was spectacular considering that the Fokkers had fixed undercarriages, making them slow for the bomber interceptor missions and clumsy against fighters in aerial combat.

The Soviet order of battle in the Finnish campaign enjoyed a tenfold superiority against the Finnish Defence Forces. As a consequence Finland was forced to yield certain areas in Karelia. However, they were able to stop the Soviet offensive inflicting heavy losses on their enemy. The ineffectiveness of the Soviet offensive became an embarrassment to the Soviet superpower and they considered suing for a temporary peace agreement. On the other hand, Germany being hostile, official Sweden strictly neutral and the support plans of France and Great Britain proving to be inadequate, Finland had not resources enough to continue the fight alone. The peace treaty was thus signed on the evening of 12th March 1940 and came into effect the following day. This included a revision of the national border west of Lake Ladoga.

When the war started the lack of fighters was quickly realized within the nation at large, and prompt measures were initiated to increase the fighter force. Thus 92 fighters were purchased or received as donations during the Winter War, including Fiat G.50, Gloster Gladiator II and Morane Saulnier M.S. 406 types. The best fighter acquired during the war, a Brewster B 239, came too late to participate in combat missions, and the same applied to the 10 Hawker Hurricane I fighters. So, all in all, the Finnish fighter force was in much better shape in the end of the war than what it had been in the beginning of the war.

Finland's strategic position stayed difficult after the Winter War. The Soviet Union continued its diplomatic pressure and Foreign Minister Molotov, on a trip to Germany in November 1940, demanded that the 'Finland problem' must be resolved for good. The supporters, France and Great Britain, were themselves embroiled in the war and in an ironic twist of fate, the Finns found that the only nearby country with whom they could trade to improve their defence status was the Soviet Union's former ally, Germany, which was at that time prepared its eastern offensive.

From a political point of view Finland did not want to be involved in an alliance with Nazi Germany, but from a military standpoint cooperation seemed to be the only possible solution. But despite numerous requests by Germany to advance their forces beyond the demarcation line drawn through Eastern Karelia, for an attack on Leningrad, the Finns refused to do this.

When Germany began its eastern offensive against the Soviet Union in June 1941, Finland had already given that country permission to stage units through Lapland, and after Soviet bombers had attacked various targets in Finland on 25th June 1941, the Finns officially entered into military cooperation with Germany, marking the beginning of the Continuation War.

At the beginning of the Continuation War the Soviet forces enjoyed only a two-to-one superiority over the Finns, and this permitted the Finns to advance fairly quickly to establish a defensive line where trench warfare network were ultimately located. The FAF had about 120 fighters in its flying units at that time, including Brewsters (BW), Fiats (FA), Morane Saulniers (MS), Curtisses (CU) and some Hurricanes (HC), 21 bombers, mainly Blenheims (BL) and some war booty planes, and 58 reconnaissance and liaison planes of various types, mainly obsolete. During this initial phase of the campaign the FAF achieved air superiority, and the Brewsters in particular excelled themselves, achieving a remarkable exchange ratio of 32:1. They added to the Winter War formation tactics and shooting accuracy a vertical energy-speed maneuver which was very effective against their main adversaries of that time, the I-153 Chaikas and I-16 Ratas, which were more agile but a little slower.

During the trench war period the most important air operations were carried out in the Gulf of Finland. These were partly the outcome of naval operations, and gradually the process evolved into the Battle of the Gulf of Finland, which culminated in Soviet air raids on Kotka and Helsinki. Finnish fighter pilots carried the main defensive burden in this battle, and were quite successful in this. The FAF strategy of concentrating on aerial combat instead of attacks on the well-defended enemy bases proved correct. The numbers of enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground didn't mean much because the Soviet superpower's own aircraft production plus lend-lease support from Great Britain and the United States meant that there was no shortage of aircraft. The shortage of trained pilots, however, became a problem for the Soviets, as became apparent in the final phase of the Battle of the Gulf of Finland. After the major aerial engagements of May 1944, the People's Commissar for the Navy, Admiral N. G. Kutznetsov, had to withdraw a whole regiment from front line duties because of the lack of pilots.

When the tide of war changed and the German forces began to retreat westwards, Soviet pressure on Finland increased. In spring of 1944 the Soviets decided to take Finland before beginning their advance towards Berlin. They amassed a tenfold superiority in troops and aircraft on the Karelian Isthmus and began their strategic offensive on 9th June 1944. Their advance achieved initial success, forcing the withdrawal of Finnish forces along the Isthmus, but in July 1944 the Finns were able to stabilize the front at the Vuoksi River and further attempts by the Soviet forces to advance beyond this line were repelled. The process seen in the Winter War was repeated.

Despite the Soviet superiority in numbers of aircraft, the FAF was able to concentrate its air forces and continue to achieve good results. The Brewsters, along with the Morane, Fiat and Curtiss fighters, although continuing their operations, became obsolete in terms of performance from 1943 on, and new fighters, Messerschmitt 109 G (MT)s, were received, although once again only in small numbers. When the Soviet offensive began, the units had about 40 Messerschmitts. Fortunately, the FAF was able to get 74 more fighters from Germany during the campaign, so that despite the fierce battles, the number of Messerschmitt fighters actually increased during the summer of 1944. The number of bombers in the flying units at the beginning of June 1944 was 66.

One good example of the ability to achieve local and temporal air superiority was the fact that the FAF bombers and a German support unit known as Kuhlmey were able to continue their effective air raids, which were vital contributions to the war effort, as the bombings could be concentrated on Soviet massed troops just before their preplanned attack times. Warnings of impending troop movements were usually captured by radio intelligence. It is also significant that no bombers in the formations escorted by the Messerschmitts were lost to enemy fighters during this period. The Messerschmitt fighters achieved an exchange ratio of 25:1.

Again the Finnish fighter force was stronger in the end of the war than it had been in the beginning of that. Also, during the wars the number of Finnish fighter aces had become a world record in relation to population. And almost all the Finnish top aces were fighting at the end of the war just as they had been at the beginning.

Also the bomber and reconnaissance units were able to carry on their missions throughout.

When it became obvious that the Soviets had failed in their plan to take Finland, they began to move their troops from the Karelian front for the race to Berlin. This failure on the Karelian Front was the only Soviet strategic defeat during their advance westward. The Soviets signed a temporary peace agreement with the Finns on 4th September 1944 with the stipulation that the Finns push the cooperative German forces out of Lapland.

Furthermore, the Finns ceded certain areas in Karelia and Petsamo and retired to the 1940 border. Nevertheless, the results of both the Winter War and the Continuation War were considered major victories for Finland. From the opening shots of the Winter War to the end of the Continuation War the Finnish objective was to save Finland and guarantee her independence. This was done and also one interesting point was made. Of all the countries in the European theater participating the Second World War there were only two which never were occupied: Finland and Great Britain.

Photographs of various types of aircraft the Finnish Air Force used.

 Flight Simulators

   IL-2 Sturmovik 'Cliff's of Dover' Blitz

   IL-2 Sturmovik Battle of Stalingrad

   DCS World - has no 3D model


Finnish pilots who have won victories with the Gloster Gladiator.
Name Victories with Gloster Gladiator Victories total
Oiva Tuominen 6.5 44
Paavo Berg 5 9.5
Ilmari Joensuu 4 5
Valio Porvari 2 7.5
Lauri Lautamäki 1.5 5.5

Finnish Aces of the Winter War[W-9]
Pilots Name confirmed unconfirmed
Lt. Jorma Sarvanto 13 4
Lt. Tatu Huhanantti 6 4
S/M. Viktor Pyötsiä 7 ½ 2
S/M Kelpo Virta 5 1
Lt. Urho Nieminen 5 1
Lt T. Vuorimaa 4 2 ½
Capt. Erkki Olavi Ehrnrooth 7 4


 Finland Map


    Winter War Citations: +

  1. Trotter 2002, pp. 187–193
  2. Hardesty p. 52
  3. Trotter (2002), p. 193
  4. Engle p. 22
  5. Kurenmaa, Pekka; Lentilä, Riitta (2005). "Sodan tappiot". In Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti (eds.). Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. pp. 1150–1162. ISBN 951-0-28690-7.
  6. Trotter (2002), pp. 187–188
  7. Tillotson (1993), p. 157
  8. Hardesty pp. 250-1
  9. Engle p. 62
  10. Trotter pp. 187–193
  11. Engle p. 60
  12. Peltonen, Martti (1999). "Ilmasota talvisodassa". In Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti (eds.). Talvisodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. pp. 606–649. ISBN 951-0-23536-9.
  13. Finnish Air Force in World War II, Heikki Nikunen at
  14. Engle p. 58
  15. Engle, Paananen pp. 56–62

    Winter War Bibliography: +

  • Engle, Eloise/ Paananen, Lauri (1973) The Winter War Sidgewick & Jackson ISBN 0 283 97949 6
  • Hardesty, Von (1982) Red Phoenix: the rise of Soviet air power 1941–1945 Arms and Armour Press ISBN 0-85368-565-7
  • Trotter, William R. (2002) [1991]. The Winter war: The Russo–Finno War of 1939–40 (5th ed.). New York (Great Britain: London): Workman Publishing Company (Great Britain: Aurum Press). ISBN 1-85410-881-6.
  • First published in the United States under the title A Frozen Hell: The Russo–Finnish Winter War of 1939–40
  • Stenman, Kari (July–August 2001). "From Britain to Finland: Supplies for the Winter War". Air Enthusiast. No. 94. pp. 56–59. ISSN 0143-5450

    Some of the most widely used Book References:

  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase One: July-August 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 1) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Eddie J Creek (Author)
  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Two: August-September 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 2) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)
  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Three: September-October 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 3) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)
  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Four: November 1940-June 1941 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 4) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)

    Magazines: +

  • Airfix Magazines (English) -
  • Avions (French) -
  • FlyPast (English) -
  • Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) -
  • Flugzeug Classic (German) -
  • Klassiker (German) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Osprey (English) -
  • Revi Magazines (Czech) -

    Web References: +

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This webpage was updated 27th June 2021