Arctic Challenge 2023: U.S. joins coalition for largest Nordic exercise

  • Published
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023, the premier Nordic large-force, live-fly field training exercise, focuses on advancing Arctic security initiatives and enhancing interoperability throughout the High North began today, continuing through June 9, throughout Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

As the newest member of NATO, Finland leading this year’s iteration of Arctic Challenge signifies the strength and capability of the Alliance throughout the Nordic region.  The exercise began in 2013, occurring biennially, as an interoperability training exercise between Finland, Sweden, and Norway, and it has now expanded to incorporate nearly every Arctic nation and many NATO Allies and Partners.

The U.S., through U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa and the Maine Air National Guard, have joined as one of 13 nations and NATO participating in the sixth iteration of the exercise.

RAF Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing committed eight F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation stealth fighters from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, also known as the “Grim Reapers,” which will operate from Norway’s Ørland Air Base.  The 48th Fighter Wing also deployed 14 F-15E Strike Eagle dual-role fighters from the 494th Fighter Squadron, also known as the “Panthers,” to Finland’s Pirkkala Air Base.

A contingent of KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft from RAF Mildenhall’s 100th Air Refueling Wing and Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing are scheduled to support coalition aerial refueling requirements for the duration of the exercise from Norway’s Ørland Air Base and from RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.

U.S. Air Force exercise controllers from Nellis Air Force Base’s 414th Combat Training “Red Flag” Squadron will integrate with Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian coordinators at Sweden’s Luleå Air Base to support host nation exercise planners.

U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa will provide advanced ground-based radar capabilities for coalition forces throughout the exercise to extend aircraft visibility and advance air-to-ground training objectives.

By training and conducting realistic exercises in the High North, like Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023, U.S. forces and those of Allied and Partner nations hone skills, fine-tune interoperability, nurture key relationships, and acclimate to the inherent challenges posed by fighting in the Arctic’s extreme conditions.

Throughout the exercise, imagery of U.S. forces will be made publicly available through the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service at

For more information on U.S. forces participating in Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023, please contact U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Public Affairs via email at