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Mar 11 2024

Swedish Gripen conduct first visual identifications over Baltic Sea as NATO member

RAMSTEIN, Germany - For the first time as a NATO member, Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jets launched under NATO arrangements to safeguard the skies over the Baltic Sea flying with German and Belgian quick reaction alert aircraft.

This swift coordinated reaction of NATO jets from Belgium, Germany and Sweden  safeguarding the skies over the Baltic Sea region underlines the close integration and responsive command and control arrangements within the Alliance

In the morning of March 11, Allied radar operators picked up an unidentified track over the Baltic Sea going from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia; the controllers at NATO’s CAOC at Uedem subsequently coordinated the launch of Swedish NATO jets from Sweden and ordered Belgian F-16 fighter jets to launch from Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania. Both Allies visually identified a Russian Tu-134 that was not on flight plan.

Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fighters conducted their first visual identification as a NATO member with Belgian F-16 jets over the Baltic Sea. Photo courtesy Belgian Air Force. 

On the same day - as the Sweden's flag was raised at NATO's military commands - Swedish JAS-39 Gripen conducted the second visual identification together with German Eurofighters. Photo courtesy German Air Force. 

Launched for visual identification of a Russian military plane, the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen operated together with a German Eurofighter demonstrated they are already integrated within NATO Air Power. Photo courtesy German Air Force. 
Later in the day, another track of a Russian An-26 showed on NATO’s radar screens and the CAOC alerted the German Quick Reaction Alert Interceptors at Lielvarde to launch and establish further details of the track. The Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jets were also launched and both Allies conducted a visual identification of a Russian military aircraft type An-26 and escorted the plane.

This mission was complete when the Swedish and German were assigned another task which involved another identification procedure on the Russian Tu-134.

Upon professionally conducting these routine visual identification missions, the NATO jets from Belgium, Germany and Sweden returned to their bases.

This first real-world mission of Swedish Gripen occurred only days after becoming a NATO member. It is an impressive demonstration of the deep integration Swedish Air Force have achieved with NATO Air Policing forces and the close and smooth interoperability in support of safeguarding NATO over the Baltic Sea.

Allied fighter jets regularly take to the skies to intercept and identify Russian planes flying in international airspace near NATO territory. As a precaution, NATO command and control launch fighters to identify these planes and track their flight path while operating close to Allies territory or over Alliance operations. For the Germans this scramble has been the second since taking over the Air Policing mission at Lielvarde on March 1, while Belgian jets have been scramble roughly a dozen times since beginning their mission at Šiauliai on December 1, 2023.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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