SKRYDSTRUP, Denmark - In a combined effort, Danish and Swedish Quick Reaction Alert fighter jets intercepted a Russian military aircraft in the airspace over the Baltic Sea. This is the first time that Denmark and Sweden have worked together in this way. The Danish and Swedish aircraft were under their own national command during the entire process.
"Today's operation shows how far we have come in our cooperation with Sweden. It is the fruit of several years of hard work tying the Nordic countries closer together. It is very satisfying to see the collaboration run so smoothly", said Lieutenant Colonel Hans Skovmose, head of the Operations Department in Danish Air Command.
Today's operation shows how far we have come in our cooperation with Sweden. It is the fruit of several years of hard work tying the Nordic countries closer together
The four fighter jets met on Thursday April 20 just after one o’clock over the Baltic Sea between Sweden, Zealand and Bornholm where they met a Russian COOT-A military aircraft which was heading west from Kaliningrad. After finding the plane and escorting it on its route, the three nations' planes separated and returned safely to their respective home bases.
For the first time Danish and Swedish fighter jets conducted a planned combined intercept of a Russian aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.
Photo by Royal Danish Air Force.
A Royal Danish Air Force F-16 fighter jet is taxiing for take-off. Archive photo courtesy Royal Danish Air Force.
Swedish Air Force JAS-39 conducted the intercept together with Danish colleagues. Archive photo courtesy Swedish air Force.
In mid-March 2023, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark signed a joint declaration of intent at Ramstein, Germany, to deepen mutual cooperation in light of tensions caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine. Photo by Arnaud Chamberlin.
"We live in an uncertain time, which is fundamentally affected by Russia's aggressive behaviour. We must expect that the Baltic Sea area will be characterised by a higher level of tension than we have been used to. We have close and solid cooperation with Sweden, which is why we also look very positively on Swedish NATO membership, which will strengthen security in the Nordic region, in Europe and the entire transatlantic area”, said acting Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen.
Although it is a breakthrough, the mission itself was in reality a routine task. Russian planes patrol the Baltic Sea at regular intervals, and their flight patterns often prompt Denmark or one or more of her neighbouring countries sending up fighter planes. What made the mission special was that the collaboration was planned in advance.
"Our air forces regularly train together, so it is not new for us to cooperate both in the air and on the ground, but it is new that we show a common front in this way regarding the enforcement of sovereignty in the airspace. It shows strong unity", said Lieutenant Colonel Skovmose. Whether Denmark and Sweden will do more tasks of this type together in the future has not been decided, but the collaboration is expected to be here to stay.
"A decision has not been made as to whether joint scrambling of combat aircraft is something that should happen more often, but now we know that we can coordinate this type of mission on short notice, and that in itself shows that the cooperation is strong, ” said Lieutanant Colonel Skovmose.
The Danish Air Force's Quick Reaction Force consists of two fighter aircraft that are on standby 24 hours a day at Skrydstrup Air Force Base in the south of Jutland. From here, the National Air Operations Centre launched the planes when Air Control Wing's radar operators receive information that there is unidentified traffic in the immediate area.
The first combined intercept of Denmark who is a NATO member and Sweden who has requested to join the Alliance, took place roughly one month after several Nordic countries agreed to bolster defences in the Baltic Sea and the High North. In a joint declaration of intent signed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on March 16, the commanders of the Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish air forces decided to deepen mutual cooperation in light of tensions caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine. If turned into reality, this endeavour will create a pool of 250 modern fighter aircraft with common tactics, techniques and procedures .