The Finnish Air Force has completed its air-to-air refuelling (AAR) training exercise, which will allow its pilots to participate in international operations such as supporting Nato forces.

The training scheme was supported by the US Air Force, which deployed a tanker team Tampere, Finland to teach the pilots to refuel in-air from a KC-135 Stratotanker.

Each of the pilots being trained needed at least three flights to qualify for AAR including training with an instructor in a two-seat F-18D and two more flights in a single-seat F-18C.

The exercise used 12 Boeing F-18 Hornets and a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker provided by the 100th Air Refueling Wing of US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE).

Once trained, the pilots will maintain their qualification till 2011 and help train the rest of the Finnish F-18 pilots in AAR.

Although it is not a Nato member, Finland is a part of its partnership of peace programme supported by USAFE.