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

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

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. 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.

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

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

Comments are closed.