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This Plane Landed on a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier. The Pilot Wasn't American.

Robert Beckhusen

Key Point: On March 17, 2017 in the Atlantic, a fighter jet landed onto the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The only difference this time was that the pilot was Finnish, not American.

Capt. Juha “Stallion” Jarvinen’s landing was the first landing on an aircraft carrier by a Finnish air force pilot in history, according to the U.S. Navy. Jarvinen was flying a U.S. Marine F/A-18C Hornet with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 as part of a pilot exchange program — also a first between the U.S. Marines and the Finnish air force.

“It was pretty intense,” Jarvinen said according to a U.S. Navy news release. “I was extremely happy because I knew I actually caught the wire when I felt the sensation of rapidly slowing down, but at the same time I was a little disappointed because I caught the second wire and not the third.”

Nimitz-class aircraft carriers — with two exceptions, the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — have four arresting wires, or cables. Catching the third cable is safest, but the snagging the second one isn’t bad.

The landing is interesting because Finland, like neighboring Sweden, is an officially neutral country and is not part of NATO, and the country during most of the post-war era navigated a fine line between East and West. That is still true, mostly.

“At the moment, to have Finland and Sweden forming this militarily non-aligned zone, I think that increases the security and stability in the Baltic Sea region … I see no reason to change this,” Finland’s center-right Prime Minister Juha Sipila told Reuters in December 2017.

However, in recent years Finland’s military has participated in more joint military exercises with NATO countries — the first pilot exchange program with the U.S. Marines being a case in point. Finland is making plans for a large-scale joint exercise in Finnish territory with Sweden and the United States as early as 2020.

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