The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has joined NATO allies in conducting road-strip operations to test their ability to perform under a so-called Agile Combat Employment (ACE) strategy.

Participating in joint Exercise Baana in Finland, a pair of Eurofighter Typhoons from the RAF’s 41 Test and Evaluation Squadron touched down at the Tervo road base: an emergency landing strip constructed on what is usually a public highway. It represented the first such operation involving the UK’s Typhoon force.

A small number of RAF personnel were on the ground “to refuel and maintain the aircraft” before the fighters departed for Rissala air base, near Kuopio.

“The Finnish have worked hard for decades on disparate operations should they be attacked and need to disperse their aircraft,” the RAF notes. Finland earlier this year formally joined NATO, having sought membership following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

“Russian aggression in Eastern Europe has reminded us all of the need to be able to disperse our aircraft and be more unpredictable,” the RAF says. It had the ability to operate combat assets like the then-British Aerospace Harrier “from unusual locations such as roads and fields during the Cold War, in order to make our aircraft harder for the enemy to find”, it notes.

Other aircraft involved in the recent exercise included Finnish air force Boeing F/A-18s and Royal Norwegian Air Force Lockheed Martin F-35As.

The US Air Force is advancing the ACE concept of operations with an eye to protecting its deployed assets, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. This will involve expanding the ability to routinely and rapidly relocate strike aircraft to potentially austere sites such as road strips, to make them harder to target by a near-peer adversary like China.