“U.S. spyplane violated Swedish airspace to escape interception by Russian jets”

Aug 01 2014 - 21 Comments

A U.S. RC-135 Rivet Joint violated the Swedish airspace recently in an (unconfirmed) attempt to escape interception by Russian fighter jets, Swedish media outlet says.

According to DN.se, on Jul. 18, an RC-135 Rivet Joint spyplane crossed the Swedish airspace, during a reconnaissance mission flown over the Baltic Sea.

U.S. SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) aircraft from RAF Mildenhall have been flying daily missions over the Baltics since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis.

Noteworthy, on Jul. 18, the day after Malaysia Airlines MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, the American aircraft was met twice by Russian interceptors launched by the Russian base just outside Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

Even if this kind of close encounters take place quite often with Russian and U.S. planes intercepting one another all around the world, the RC-135 reacted in a different way to the second intercept attempt by the Russian fighters. Indeed, the RC-135 asked the permission to cross the Swedish airspace, but when the ATC (Air Traffic Control) center denied the clearance, the Rivet Joint decided to proceed and flew over Gotland island.

Although UK-based RC-135s have flown more than 50 missions in the region, sometimes flying over Poland, sometimes into Lithuania and Latvia, and sometimes over the Baltic Sea near the Russian base in Kaliningrad to eavesdrop Russian signals and collect intelligence data, this was the first time, according to DN.se, that the American plane apparently reacted to the interception attempted by the Russians with an unauthorized short-cut over Sweden.

After overlying Sweden largest island, the RC-135 turned southbound reached the international airspace before entering the Swedish airspace off Oland.

Violations of Swedish airspace are quite frequent (and, sometimes they do not face a response by the Swedish Air Force‘s Gripen jets): seven violations were recorded in 2014, and a total of 53 aircraft have flown without permission inside Stockholm’s airspace since 2009, DN reported.

Image credit: DN.se

H/T to Lars-Gunnar Holmström for the heads-up

  • Pedro Alcontes

    If i were Swedish I would have shot down American and Russian planes both…why can’t they fly in their airspace and not violate the others?

    • tim robinson

      US restricted Airspace is THE most frequently violated on Earth, 3400 per year with up to 200 of those being intercepted and forced down

      Because they were collecting Intel, intel that’s gone towards Russia not invading over the past 60 years

      Sweden = typical US citizen, all the demands for its rights while fulfilling none of its obligations & duties

    • Roland Lawrence

      The Swedes are only neutral on paper these days. When the Polish tried to buy some Saab Grippens, they were told “you are either with us or against us” – the Swedes naturally bent over and took a large one for the team. Then there is the Julian Assange case which is another bending over.

      • Pedro Alcontes

        Poland and ex soviet nations are the ruin of UE.

        • John Kenealy

          Why do you say that? I’m actually curious to hear why

  • InklingBooks

    Were I flying that RC-235 Rivet Joint and given a choice between:

    1. Getting intercepted by Russian fighters who might try to force me to land at one of their airfields, creating an international incident.

    2. Making a few Swedish ATCs unhappy,

    I’d choose the latter. Personally, I tire of neutrals who stay a little too neutral.

    A story is told that in the days of the SR71, when Blackbird spy planes were flying out of the UK to monitor the Near East, the French banned overflights, forcing the pilots and their refueling tankers to take a much longer and more exhausting route around.

    One Blackbird, faced with engine problems, decided to overfly France to be sure of making it home. It must have been cruising slowly, because over Northern France it was intercepted by a French fighter that probably had its throttle wide open as it came on the radio wanting to know their “overflight authorization” number. The guy in the rear, it is said, gave an obscene gesture in lieu of that number, while the pilot shoved the throttle forward, leaving the French interceptor bobbing in his wake.

    Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

    Here’s a report on the SR-71’s replacement:


  • CheetahFang258

    Does Sweden have SAMs?

    • Michael Rich

      They have the short range air defense system “RBS-70”. Other than that they rely on the Gripen.

      • Grach25

        Sweden has a couple ground based missile systems, both employed, and in development. Saab BAMSE is in service.

    • Yuri Sponse

      Good comment! Especially for a country (Sweden) which has always (historically) excelled as a highly respected and well self-defended airspace.

      One could indeed ponder that Swedes would be a top-notch world developer and manufacturer of long-range SAM today, as they also are of fighter-interceptors.

      Perhaps at least something along the lines of a ground-based SM-6 (with dual-IIR seeker, perhaps).

      • Paolo Moleman

        Shame the Swedes and Americans do not protect their borders from foreign invaders.

  • Borisov

    I love it when americans think the world is theirs to do what they want….thanks to God that won’t last for too long.

    • Ales Ogrinc

      who will take there place? Russia? right…

    • OG_Locc

      Bad news Boris. In case you haven’t noticed – the world is ours, and we do what we want.

  • Pedro Alcontes

    So let’s abolish all sovereignty on national airspaces, US planes can fly without permission everywhere because they protect everybody…come on! USA are spying on UE countries, just let them do everything they want…the way USA treats UE allies is just disrespectful

  • Yuri Sponse

    Actually friend, no offense, but that seems to be an arguably pretty stupid comment itself. First off, Sweden would likely not just unilaterally shoot down a Joint Rivet aircraft in such a scenario (and any trailing Russian interceptors) and then ask questions second. Well most likely at least today they wouldn’t.

    Secondly, even if there was an ‘accidental’ shoot down by Swedish Gripen of a USAF surveillance aircraft (forget the Ru interceptors) in such an incident, there would NOT be millions of Swedes dead by a US retaliation! Please think before posting comments next time. Thanks.

  • nn

    Russian jets stayed out of sweden
    It was just the US plane that entered so sweden can’t take down russian jets

  • bomond

    This video reports of a rare and unusual radar used by the Russians in this case. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/02/us/us-spy-plane/index.html?hpt=hp_t3
    Any info on that?

  • jagigen

    Another incident occured on the 20th of June during the 2014 Nato Baltops military exercise.
    Two aircrafts came from the east, crossed and continued 10 km into Swedish airspace before turning southeast out of Swedish airspace again.


  • Paolo Moleman

    Another waste of taxpayers money. When the dollar loses reserve currency status, this will probably end.

  • Anton Zuykov

    “You miss the part of that story”
    Because it was a real story, not your fairy tales…