Någon som vet något mer om norska underrättelsetjänstens rekrytering av finska krigsveteraner som skickades över gränsen till Sovjet? Låter lite som svenska underrättelsetjänstens operationer mot Baltikum.
Det står också omnämnt om en minde flygstrid mellan sovjetisk jakt och amerikanskt spaningsflyg 1954. Jag har ett svagt minne att jag läst om det förut någonstans, men är det någon som kan fräscha upp mitt minne?
http://www.economist.com/blogs/easterna ... telligenceAS a change from all the hectic news that has filled these pages in recent weeks, I thought readers might be interested in this interesting historical take on Finnish neutrality. It's by Jukka Rislakki, a Finnish author now based in Latvia. It won a prize in an American essay competition, but is not online anywhere, so I am posting it here. It's long, but gives a revealing take on a much neglected aspect of cold war history. Finland was a lot closer to American defence planning that most people realised at the time. I suspect that's still the case now. Apologies for the clumsy formatting of the footnotes.
“Without Mercy” – U.S. Strategic Intelligence and Finland in the Cold War
During the Cold War, Finland occupied a strategic position between two hostile blocks and was an object of interest to the superpowers as both a buffer zone and an overflight and military transit route. Both sides cultivated the potential to use tactical nuclear weapons against targets in our (i.e. Finnish) territory, at least pre-emptively. Both engaged themselves in intensive intelligence activities in Finland and in the bordering areas.
Bomber formations heading east would have crossed Finland’s air space during the first hours of a war between the two blocs. A Strategic Air Command (SAC) pilots’ Escape & Evasion route through Finland to the west was prepared for the eventuality that bombers ran out of fuel or were shot down on the way to or from the Moscow area.1
Already in April 1949 the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said about the Scandinavian countries: “Current strategic plans envisage overflights of their territories by combat aircraft”. It was clear to them, as well as to Finnish intelligence, that Scandinavian air bases were necessary and would be used for this purpose by bombers stationed in England, Iceland, and Greenland.2
The Soviet Union wanted to detect and engage the adversary’s nuclear attack assets well before they reached the Soviet-Finnish border since Finland’s eastern border ran close to important Soviet population and military centers.3
The Finnish military informed the government in 1958 that there were “a lot of nuclear targets” behind our eastern border. Nowhere else were vital Soviet targets so well within the reach of the western military apparatus.4
The massed use of nuclear weapons against us was considered unlikely in Finland, even though it was known that the Soviet Union’s plans called for the dispersal of its aircraft to the airfields of its allies and neighbors, including Finland, and that our airfields were probably included in the U.S. lists of bombing targets. Already in the late 1950s, the Finnish Air Force’s threat scenarios reflected the possibility of NATO taking out Finnish airfields with nuclear weapons in order to deny the enemy their use.
Starting at the end of the 1940s, U.S. intelligence services were actively gathering information about our airfields and their capacities. In their 1950 Lapland review, the CIA wrote: “Finnish experts confirm that modern mechanical equipment and natural environment make it possible to construct quite a big air base in one month’s time.” If need be, the airfield would have been built on snow and ice.5
Finnish military intelligence gauged American troops’ mobility and action capability in northern and cold conditions as very limited – “hopelessly behind” Russia (or Finland). The Finnish Military Attaché became even more convinced of this after witnessing U.S. maneuvers in Alaska in March 1950.6
The West had a “desperate need of up-to-date intelligence on Soviet troops, geography and infrastructure”, as an official Norwegian report states. So in the beginning of 1950s, the Norwegian intelligence recruited, trained and paid Finnish war veterans, who used to patrol as guerrillas behind the enemy lines. They were sent east across the border with their cameras to observe military bases in Karelia, Kola, and the Leningrad area. The CIA and British MI-6 financed the activity. Two CIA trained Finnish agents were even sent flying over the border with a gas balloon. A number of people were shot, or they disappeared during these operations.7
U.S. intelligence services and the United States Air Force had by 1952, if not even earlier, available sets of old aerial photographs almost complete covering the eastern and northern parts of Finland. Some of the pictures were old German ones, and some showed also the Soviet side of the border.
In 1951-52, the Army intelligence service (G-2) wished to get their hands on new more detailed maps and aerial photos and directed the Military Attaché’s office in Helsinki to expedite delivery from Finland. The entire Finnish coastline was photographed from above. All harbors were studied and mapped as well as roads leading inland. Of special interest were the sandy beaches and flat, open coastal landscape of the Gulf of Bothnia. Landing points (LPs) were marked on the pictures.8 After the war, Finns prepared against NATO invasions from the sea on the south-western and western coasts, and held war games there. Later in the cold war, our only worry on the coasts were possible attacks from the Soviet Baltic republics.9
The feasibility was discussed in 1951 of dispatching to Finland a team of topography specialists trained by the intelligence service to gather information on military topography, geographic features, and transport and communications. Eventually Washington directed that the Military Attaché’s office should use its own resources not only to obtain photos but also to do its own photography on various locations in Finland. Lots of “horizontal and vertical” photos were needed. The pictures that could be obtained from Finns should be sent in a month’s time; for photography trips, a time limit of half a year was set.10
In 1952, maps and photos of ditches on meadows, fields and swamps all over Finland were demanded, as well as plans of ditch development in general. The representatives of the Military Attaché’s bureau were to travel to the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia and see the ditches there themselves, “if possible”. They were to determine how much these would hinder the advance of motorized troops. The troops would have a hard time on Finland’s few and bad roads and snow. Finns thought also that during the winter USAF could not fly at all in Finland, and as to summer, Finnish airfields were in very bad shape, and in the beginning of 1950s, only three of them had any kind of tarmac.11
The U.S. Embassy had a large and efficient Military Attaché department, and many of the officers spoke Finnish. A secret report of the Finnish general staff counter-intelligence department stated in 1953: “One of the main tasks of the western Military Attachés is to study our country as a future combat area, which is predicted to become occupied by the Soviet Union and whose re-conquest – or at least engaging the troops here – would at some point be possible.”12
An American Attaché, colonel Jesse Drain, and his aides photographed and measured bridges, roads, and border posts in Lapland in August 1962 ”exceptionally brazenly”, and had to leave the country. Finns were also no less astonished to witness an Embassy CIA official marching into the Finnish government public works agency, and demanding what weight of tanks could cross certain bridges he named.13
The Norwegian intelligence chief Vilhelm Evang explained to his Finnish colleagues why Drain had been so active. The Soviets had fired on the Arctic Sea missiles from their “atomic submarines” flying 650 kilometers, and other missiles had been launched from the mainland toward the sea. The American intelligence was on high alert, and agents had been told to “find out about everything possible in the northern areas, even the minutest things.”14
In the early 1970s, the Finnish military intelligence once again witnessed this kind of spy tourism, reporting “increased activity” by American naval and Air Force officers and stating that the apparent long-term objective was to “obtain a big picture of harbor installations, their approaches, and factors affecting the conduct of flight operations in Finland.” In 1972, an Air Attaché quietly tried to get the Finnish “low altitude flight obstacle list” – probably for cruise missiles.
Drain had not informed Finnish officials about his trip. Naval Attaché Edward Brookes, on the other hand, surprised the defense forces headquarters in the summer of 1978 by making an announcement beforehand about his spy trip to various northern harbors. He was officially warned but left for the north anyway. The Finnish secret police Suojelupoliisi followed him to the harbors of Oulu, Raahe, Kokkola and Vaasa to find that Brookes spent hours photographing these harbors from a boat. A former Suojelupoliisi chief says that this was something unique. “Nothing like this has ever happened any other time”.
Clearly, the narrowest area, the “waist” of Finland, interested Americans – but not only them. The Russians also let the Finns know that they were not interested in the southern part of the country but in the area where the distance between NATO and Soviet Union was the shortest, namely, northern Finland.15
The Army G-2 (intelligence) requested to be sent three copies of exact photos and maps of each specified location throughout the country. They were needed for possible war-time use and for guidance systems of missiles. Negotiations with the Finnish Mapping Service yielded results: in the 1950’s, the Finns handed over to the United States at least 100,000 copies of aerial photo maps and photos of areas of which they themselves had not printed maps yet. Similarly, the Swedish intelligence got from Finns all the maps, photos, and nautical charts they wanted to.
In return the Americans provided the Finns with good-quality photography paper (600,000 sheets sent in diplomatic pouches) and “secret” – not “top secret”, however – intelligence on the socialist countries. All was very secret, because disclosure of this arrangement would lead to difficulties with dire consequences, as G-2 wrote.
The delivery of photos continued until the second half of the 1970’s, and in the end Finns got satellite pictures in return. Finnish counter-intelligence noticed that American officers had direct contacts with the official Mapping Service, and Finnish officers not wearing uniforms were seen visiting the American Embassy and exchanging materials.16
Already in 1949 the CIA had at their disposal an exact and complete diagram of the Finnish defense forces’ telephone and telex network. Whoever had given it, had committed a serious crime – unless it was not a friendly gift on a quid pro quo basis.
The Military Attaché bureau wrote to G-2 in 1952 stressing that a lot of important information had been obtained from Finns in Helsinki, but the Finnish representatives in Washington had received practically nothing in return. The flow of intelligence information would probably grow, if there were more reciprocity. G-2 agreed that Finland as a neighbor of the USSR was an important observation post. The Department of the Army agreed: there were security risks, but the profit justified them.17
It can be seen from G-2 documents that some officers in the Finnish Army had already for years regularly channeled secret military and political information on Finland and the Soviet Union to their American counterparts. Some Finnish secrets Americans received from Swedes. As is now well known, the Swedish intelligence services fed their American counterparts information even in real time, and Finnish officers, for their part, readily volunteered secrets to Swedes; Mikael Holmström writes of “an intensive unofficial exchange” of information. In the end some of this information was used for western bomb targeting in Finland, as military historian Tapio Koskimies writes.18
Also, after the war, more than twenty Finnish officers defected to America, began as privates and soon served, mostly as colonels, in the U.S. Army as intelligence, guerrilla war, and winter warfare experts. Colonel Aladar Paasonen, the chief of war time military intelligence, helped marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim write memoirs and then began a new career in service of the CIA.19
In June 1952, State Department’s and Pentagon’s Military Information Control Committee (MICC) quietly gave permission to exchange information on a quid pro quo basis: Finland could have some secret intelligence information on China and North Korea (countries that hardly were of great interest to Finns). Reciprocally, Finns were asked to give information on the following:
Soviet-made technical equipment;
Soviet cold climate building techniques, and photos of this kind of work in Soviet bases; also knowledge on how to build airfields and roads on snow;
Information and photos on the port of Pechenga on the Kola peninsula;
Organization of Soviet engineering forces;
Soviet border fortifications.20
Later, Finnish intelligence received American evaluations on the Soviet army and the Warsaw Pact and detailed information on Kola and the Leningrad military district. Finns told Americans what kind and how many weapons they had acquired from Russia, and where the weapons would be placed in a crisis situation.21
Finns received free of charge or in exchange for information American-made SIGINT (signals intelligence) equipment to be used on airplanes or in land stations. According to professor Jeffrey Richelson the Finnish armed forces secret SIGINT center VKL (Viestikoelaitos) seems to have sold information on the Soviet Union to NSA (National Security Agency). While this is possible, and has been rumored for a long time, I have not found factual corroboration.22
The USA built an anti-submarine hydrophone array – similar to SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System) in the North Atlantic – in the sea of Aland between Finland and Sweden in the 1980s. In the Gulf of Finland, Finns used hydrophones donated by Americans, forwarded information to them, and the Americans helped the Finns to put together a submarines ”voice library”.
The Commander of the Defense Forces, the former spy chief General Lauri Sutela terminated the secret intelligence exchange with the United States 1965 from fear that someone might blow the lid off the arrangement. Finnish politicians probably had not known anything about it.23 Sutela had visited the USA, also the CIA headquarters in Langley secretly and incognito – he was introduced there with a wrong name, as a “Belgian officer”.
Still, in 1968, the State Department Action Plan recommended that Finland should receive, in addition to military hardware, ”information, also classified”. Care had to be taken that Finnish weapon, logistics, and communication systems were unified with American, British and Scandinavian ones. Finns let the western intelligence know that their new radar systems would be coordinated only with the western ones, not with eastern ones.24
In 1951 and 1952, information was demanded on several bridges in central and northern Finland. Washington needed it urgently for an intelligence review on Finland. One of the bridges reported on was the Kaukonen bridge over the river Kitinen in Western Lapland – a route to Sweden and Norway. I encountered the name of this bridge in two interesting documents:
First, in March, 1951 G-2 required the Army Attaché in Helsinki to get information on location, status of construction, and engineering details on the Kaukonen bridge. Then, in the top secret Nuclear Yield Requirements document of 1964 the Kaukonen bridge is shown as one of the possible objects of nuclear targeting in Finland: country code FI, target number 03000, number 0091 on WAC chart, length in feet 150, width in feet 21.25
NATO’s battle plans called for the use of large numbers of nuclear weapons against targets in a belt that extended from Kola via Finland and the Baltic states to Poland. NATO assumed that Norway was defensible only by using nuclear weapons, and Norwegian generals very much favored these weapons. The alliance’s intelligence service compiled from 1952 onward lists of hundreds of targets, some of which were nuclear targets in Northern Finland. Soviet bases in Kola were only about 100 kilometers from the NATO border, and it is now known, that in 1959, for example, NATO had 54 targets in Kola alone that could have been destroyed by nuclear weapons.
The General Staff of the Norwegian armed forces prepared its own target list in 1954, 367 targets in all, and it also included several nuclear targets in Finland and other surrounding areas. (Norway herself did not have nuclear weapons, of course, nor were they ever deployed in Norway – as far as is know.) Norwegian F-86F Sabre planes prepared to “open” the way for bombers through the Finnish air space, and in 1959 Sabre pilots started to train for dropping nuclear bombs.26
Although there was no official agreement with neutral, non-aligned Sweden, it was also in fact under the American “nuclear umbrella”. Still in the beginning of 1970’s Swedes counted on USAF and NATO to defend them by bombing, if need be, Finland and the Baltic Soviet republics from Swedish airfields – also with nuclear weapons. Sweden hoped that in a crisis American Marines would be flown to the northern part of Sweden. They would not wait at the border but tackle the enemy on Finnish ground.27
So, Sweden herself did not need many bombers; yet during the Cold War it had a very strong force of attack fighter planes, with targets like ports and airfields in western and northern Finland. Also nuclear bombs could have been used here, if Sweden had developed them, as it planned for a long time in 1950’s and 1960’s.28
In the 1960’s, NATO’s Northern Command AFNORTH produced a list of nuclear targets consisting of naval bases, lines of communication, and ports in Northwestern Russia and along the shores of the Baltic Sea as well as railroad and road junctions and bridges on Finnish territory. The bombing of the latter would delay the advance of Russian troops. The command was also authorized to bomb targets of opportunity detected from the air during missions. These mobile targets would have been naval units and the enemy’s ground forces in Finland or East Germany.
In order to pinpoint targets, intelligence officers toured Finland by car and train familiarizing themselves with the designated target areas and to recruit an agent network. Norwegian and Swedish officers in civilian clothing made mapping trips to Finnish Lapland identifying and photographing bridges, road junctions, and radars to be targeted for tactical nuclear weapons. Postcards with views including bridges, especially, were bought in great numbers. The officers planted ground markers to assist bomber crews and undertook preparatory work for the demolition of bridges. Especially heavily mined were the east-west roads in Lapland, like the one running along the “arm” of Finland pointing toward Tromsö, Norway.29
Nuclear targets and targeting principles were closely guarded secrets. U.S. target maps of Finland from the late 1950s show specific target symbols on facilities such as airfields, ports, and bridges. All possible targets comprised the National Strategic Target List (NSTL), while the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP, from 1960 onwards) was a blueprint that specified the value of these targets, the conditions under which they were to be attacked, and the order and priority of targets to be engaged. The Bombing Encyclopedia produced by the United States Air Force and intelligence services was an attempt to list all potential targets anywhere in the world; this document was first created in 1946, and over the years it assumed increasingly massive dimensions, including bombing targets in both “hostile nations” and in neutral countries, such as Finland.
In the bombing charts in 1950’s targets were marked with different symbols – in the capital Helsinki and many other places in Finland – such as airfields, harbors, bridges, road junctions, factories, military bases, radio stations and fuel depots30. Even Siikakangas, an abandoned, grassy airfield in central Finland was among the targets. Why? Obviously because the government was just at the time considering moving the main base of the Finnish air force there – far from borders and population centres.31
The military in Finland was not ignorant of such targets, but probably did not know the precise locations (yet could quite easily guess them). The military also strongly warned the politicians that urgent measures were needed to protect the civilian population.32
The top-secret NATO document stolen at the Orly airport and revealed in 1980 titled Nuclear Yield Requirements shed light on the situation in the early 1960’s and had 23 possible targets selected for pre-emptive strikes in 18 locations in Finland. That means that some places could have received two strikes. The target areas could have been struck with nuclear weapons in cases where Warsaw Pact forces were about to capture or had captured specific strategic targets.
It remains unknown in what kind of situations the superpowers would have resorted to their nuclear arsenal. By the mid 1960s the use of tactical nuclear weapons had become an increasingly remote possibility despite the fact that the United States had approximately 7,000 stored in Europe. It is unlikely that the U.S.A would have used them for purposes other than repelling or preventing an attack against herself.
It is hard to build a reliable picture of comprehensive plans and their exact nature since documents have come to light only randomly, and those that have are incomplete. (And practically nothing definite is known about the Soviet plans.) What is obvious, however, is that in the event of the outbreak of a war, all listed targets would not have been attacked automatically and all the bombs used would not have carried nuclear warheads.
Military and politicians realized that Finnish Lapland was far too weakly defended in order to stop foreign armies crossing it. Also Finnish air defenses urgently needed strengthening and modernizing. As the Finnish defense council (puolustusneuvosto) stated in 1960: either Finland modernizes air and sea policing and defenses; denies spies and saboteurs crossing to north-western Russia; prohibits western planes flying over Finland, or the Soviets take over 12 airfields all over the country, plus some harbors, and establishes its network of radars in Finland.33
The Paris peace treaty that Finland had to sign in 1947 forbade missiles, for example, and set limits to the Finnish air force. Moscow conceded in 1961 that Finland could buy anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and modern fighter planes – as long as they (or the majority of them) were Russian-made. Soon the British also were eager to sell modern weaponry to Finns.
However, The United States – not a party to the peace treaty – was steadfastly against this and wanted the British also to deny Finns the right to buy missiles. Americans were afraid that Finns would use their missiles against American bombers flying east over Finland and that the Russians might even take over Finnish weapons and control systems in a war situation.
“At whom do the Finns expect to shoot their missiles?” asked Secretary of State Dean Rusk the Finnish Ambassador in May 1962. In his secret memorandum Rusk wrote that Finns could hardly fire missiles but in one direction. That would mean that Americans would have to reroute their bombers. Selling missiles would be “politically and militarily unwise”, and in any case Washington could not allow Finns to get hold of Bloodhounds and Thunderbirds, which were sophisticated British SAM systems.34
In 1964, the American Air Attaché Edward Butler let Finns know how greatly their air defenses interested his country. Finns were suspected of secret defense cooperation with Russians. If the rumors proved to be true, the Finns “would without mercy become victims of a devastating attack”. According to Butler, it was extremely important that Finns give the right picture of their attitude to the USAF, which was responsible for strategic air war. This strong reaction was caused by the Finnish decision to buy MiG 21F fighter planes.35
NATO had regarded Finland as an area not worth of defending and not possible to defend, and as a country cooperating too closely with the Russians.36 Were Finns able or even willing to fight? NATO suspected that Soviet troops could cross northern Finland in about one week. Even if Finns did resist, that would happen while retreating toward the south, not west.37 The Western line of defense was drawn between Finland and the Scandinavian peninsula. The leading Finnish politicians were deemed hopeless, even dangerous by American observers.
But a change was coming. Little by little, Washington became positively interested in the Finnish armed forces. Their motivation as well as fighting will and ability were good, and the officer corps was western-minded; ordinary people were patriotic and anti-Communist. If war came, would Finns fight with the west against the Soviets? According to U.S. military experts, there would be “no resistance worth mentioning” from the Finnish side, if American troops entered Finland. Still, Washington continued to be careful not to give any military guarantees to Finns, unlike to Swedes. Some American generals thought, however, that if war broke out, NATO would react as if Finns were as much entitled to military aid as Swedes.38
The senior politico-military expert of the Finnish general staff said in 1965 that “in order to destroy Leningrad it was not necessary to use the area of Finland anymore”. The pressure seemed to ease: with ICBMs deployed, the Russians could not demand action from Finns, because they themselves were unable to shoot them down. But soon a new threat emerged, in the form of cruise missiles. Shot from the Norwegian Sea, they would be routed low over Finland and would be extremely difficult to intercept, as the President of Finland warned. Finns prepared for the eventuality that a missile would be shot down or would accidentally fall on Finnish soil. An intensive study of nuclear weapons and missiles, their characteristics and effects was conducted by scientists affiliated with government and military research centers.39
Moscow let it be understood, that if Finns were unable to stop the missiles, Russians would shoot them down in Finnish air space. Still in the 1970’s the Soviets pressured Finland to hold common military maneuvers; these were never held, however.
Along Borders and in Air Space
In the 1950s, American and British planes flew along the borders of the Soviet Union day and night the year round photographing, listening, and ”ferreting”. Sometimes they reresorted to aggressive deep penetration flights in Soviet air space. To find out what was happening in the east they repeatedly flew also above and over Finland – without permission. They knew that there was no risk involved, Finnish air policing and air force being in such bad shape.40
In October 1952, the USAF chief of intelligence, general James Walsh sent a letter the Air Attaché in Stockholm thanking him for valuable information and asking for more details on the Soviet air defense system ”on the Karelo-Finnish border”. The information on radars and command centers had already helped in understanding the system. The general went on: ”We cannot overestimate the importance of this area”. He asked to pay ”maximum attention” to command centers and communication channels. Their coordinates had to be precisely known, and photos of them were needed. Also Murmansk was interesting – and generally ”all of this area”.41
In the morning of 8th May, 1954, only a few minutes apart, two Boeing RB-47E Stratojets flew into northern Finnish airspace from the east. It was one of the most dangerous intelligence operations in the Cold War. SAC had sent the planes to photograph military bases in the north-west of the Soviet Union. The other RB-47 was followed and fired at by MiG fighter planes. The Americans were hit, but they also shot back with their gun. Part of the fighting seems to have happened above Finland. Both sides later denied that anything like that had happened. At the time, Finland did not have a single radar or fighter plane in the northern part of the country.42
Four years later USAF recommended using “System IV” above the Gulf of Finland. It had been used already on the Barents Sea during Soviet maneuvers. System IV was in fact a U-2 stuffed with advanced technique. There was room for only one camera, because inside the small airplane there were eleven radio receivers.
USAF agreed with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the importance of collecting ELINT (electronic intelligence) information on the Finnish-Russian border, Gulf of Finland, and the Coast of the Baltic Sea. Some experts stressed that photographing this area would be more important than “penetrating the Soviet Union with System IV”.43
USAF General Frederick Sutterlin was in September 1958 ready to give permission to a Leningrad ELINT flight, if it happened above international waters or a friendly area (read: Finland or the Gulf of Finland). He admitted that Leningrad was one of the most important objects for spying upon, but warned that reactions to air space intrusions – “were they unintentional or not” – could have serious consequences. (An American spy plane had just been shot down over Soviet Armenia.)44
Finnish air force officers tell that American spy planes only seldom flew above the Gulf of Finland. “The international space there is so narrow that it is difficult to turn”.
It is now known that already in 1957 and 1958 CIA’s Lockheed U-2 flew very high over Finland, but with the radars in use at the time they could not have been spotted and even less likely, shot down.45 A Russian missile downed Gary Powers’ U-2 on May Day 1960 when he was flying from Pakistan to Norway. Powers had with him a map showing that in an emergency he could land on Sodankylä airport in Finnish Lapland. He also said so in Soviet court after being taken prisoner.46
After shooting down the U-2 the Soviets began to build a massive surveillance and air defense network on their western border from the Kola peninsula all the way to the Baltics. It took years to build. The U.S. intelligence codeword for it was TALLINN. Americans desperately needed information of these radars and missiles. TALLINN was so well disciplined that Western ferret flights produced little information, and “unconventional methods” had to be used.
So CIA drew up a top secret plan in 1967: an airplane equipped with a new ELINT system and very efficient cameras would fly over all of Finland from western Lapland down to the south-eastern corner of the country and would force TALLINN to wartime alertness. A CIA document describes this unique operation as follows:
A CIA spy plane A-12 Oxcart is fueled above the Norwegian Sea and flies very fast (more than 3 x supersonic) into Finnish air space at an altitude of 78 500 feet. South of Rovaniemi (in Lapland), the pilot turns to the flight path that takes him straight toward Leningrad. Just before the border, he makes a sharp turn to the right to avoid Russian air space and flies on west above the Baltic Sea. He had to find out how Russian radars worked and photograph them. In case of emergency, he could land on Finnish soil. During all of the flight, a secret radio station would receive SIGINT. It was probably the National Security Agency station on the compound of the American Embassy in Helsinki.
We do not know when, if at all, this flight occurred, but there was a serious and mystical (“very strange”) intrusion into our air space from Norway on April Fool’s day 1968. Finnish military intelligence papers mention two flights, and the longer one crossed more than 500 kilometers over Finland. That very day most Finnish generals were meeting in Lapland, the Rovaniemi high resolution radar was not working because of snow clearing works, and the American Embassy’s airplane was flying in the vicinity.47
Both the CIA and the Finnish military knew that at the time there already were modern, far-reaching S-200 anti-aircraft missiles deployed in Soviet Estonia. CIA hoped they would not pose a real danger, but Finnish officers say that there was a real danger for the A-12 to be shot down.48 What would then have happened in the Cold War, one can only guess.
According to a former Finnish air force officer I interviewed it is known that Oxcart did fly in our air space in the 1960’s. He also says that every year in the late 1970s American RC-135 spy planes on their routine rounds intruded our air space above an island off our south coast “dozens of times”. He saw how American jet planes flew to ferret out Russian radars and how an RC-135 observed what was happening.
However, after he began his work in the air control center (in 1976), Americans never flew across Finland to the eastern border. “Did they have to, if they got the information they needed from VKL? VKL planes have flown for decades equipped with American ELINT apparatus. But all of this is such a delicate and serious matter that it can never be disclosed by anyone, at least not from the Finnish side”.49
The author of the article is a journalist, writer, and reserve officer of the Finnish Army with a BA degree, political science, from the University of Helsinki. He has published books on intelligence activities as well as on Finnish, Baltic, and Russian history.