Tag Archives: Sweden

Why Is A Swedish ELINT Aircraft Operating Off Lebanon and Syria These Days?

A Swedish Air Force heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP aircraft used to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) missions has joined the long list of ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platforms operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.

The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972. They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defence), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyse enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.

Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (U.S. Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.

Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1:

Here’s the second mission, later on the same day (21.40LT):

Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle. “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source who wishes to remain anonymous.

For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.

Top image: Peter Bakema/Wiki and @ItaMilRadar

Viggens operating from improvised airstrips in the forest: Cold War in Sweden

In Sweden, almost any strip road is a runway that can be used by Swedish Air Force fighter planes.

Here’s an interesting video, shot during the last days of the SAAB Viggen in Swedish Air Force service. The footage, shot in 2004, shows the underground bunkers that can still be found all over Sweden, and the operations connected to a “war time practice”.

During the Cold War period, Sweden could not expect its 30 airbases to survive an attack for more than a few hours. For this reason, the 1,000 planes of the Swedish Air Force were prepared to operate from mini airbases and straight roads around them, that would allow aircraft to take off and recover.

In case of crisis or just for training goals, aircraft would move from standard airbases to strips dispersed and partly hidden in the woods.

JAS-37 Viggen shown in the video have been retired and replaced by the SAAB Gripen.

H/T to Robin Vleij for the heads-up

 

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Swedish Gripen fighter jets to join NATO Response Force

Last week, the Swedish Government has decided to commit a squadron of Gripens fighter jets as well as a mine-sweeping warship to the NATO Response Force (NRF) by 2014, with eight more fighter jets joining the allied force by 2015.

NRF is a multinational force made up of 25,000 troops that can be quickly deployed and act as a stand-alone force in case of need.

What is more, along with Norwegian and Finnish fighter jets, Swedish aircraft will take part in the Iceland Fighter Meet 2014 (IFM14), that is scheduled from Feb. 3 to Feb. 21, 2014 and is part of the concurrent Iceland Air Policing mission (ISLAPS).

The increasing cooperation between Sweden and NATO is somehow tied to the aggressive posture of the Russians in the Baltic Sea area: even if close encounters have always occurred they have become a bit more frequent during the last year, with simulated attacks in March, April, June, and October, that have sparked some concern.

The Gripens in the NATO QRF will act towards greater degree of interoperationability of Swedish forces with NATO. JAS-39s have already taken part in the 2011 Libya Air War.

However, despite the always shrinking defense budget and fewer active units Sweden is not to enter the North Atlantic alliance in the foreseeable future: only 32% of Swedes are for NATO membership, while 40% are against, according to a poll from May 2013.

Written with David Cenciotti

Image credit: SAAB/Eduard Isch

 

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“Russian bombers practiced bomb runs on Sweden, Baltic States and Poland” Swedish Armed Forces say

Talking to a local media outlet, a Swedish Armed Forces officer said that Russian bombers practiced bombing runs to Sweden, Baltics states and Poland last week.

Nothing new then. Close encounters occur quite often and some of them have much media attention, as happened in March, April, and June.

The latest episode occurred in the morning of Oct. 28, when three escort planes and two Russian bombers flew in direction of the Swedish territory. The “package” was detected on the radar over the Gulf of Finland and for one hour they seemingly carried out attack runs against Poland, the Baltics – and the southern tip of Öland in Sweden.

“I think the purpose was to practice various types of attacks as well as highlight the Russian presence in the southern Baltic,” Anders Persson, acting flight tactical commander on the Swedish Armed Forces said in an interview with SVT.se.

“We are now seeing an increased activity of Russian strategic bombers in the area. Of course we have to follow developments and see what they’re going and what they are doing,” Persson said.

Two Gripen fighter jet were scrambled to keep a close eye on the Russian planes.

Even though Sweden is somehow used to such activity in the Baltic Sea area, the aggressive posture of the Russians makes the drills a bit annoying for the Swedish.

“The difference is that when we practice, we do it together with a nation, we do not practice on any target in any country without the country being involved in the exercise. The Russian behavior is far more aggressive in their exercises,” Anders Persson, comments.

Image credit: Alex Beltyukov

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Russian intelligence gathering plane flies near Sweden. Swedish Air Force allegedly fails to intercept it.

On Mar. 29, two Russian Tu-22M Backfire bombers, escorted by four Su-27 Flanker fighter jets, conducted a simulated night attack on Sweden. The mock air strike did not cause any reaction by the Swedish air force.

On Apr. 25, Svenska Dagbladet reported about a Russian Air Force ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) plane that on the preceding day flew in an unusually aggressive fashion in a narrow line of international airspace in between two big strategically placed Swedish isles, Öland and Gotland.

The Russian plane, reportedly an Il-20 Coot, arrived from the southern Baltic Sea on a northern course between the islands, then it turned south: a route that brought the spyplane close to violating the Swedish airspace.

One reason for the Russian reconnaissance plane to fly so close to Sweden may have been the large international “Combined Joint Staff Exercise” that began on Apr. 20.

The annual exercise features intense signal connection between the staffs in Karlskrona, Enköping and Uppsala; signals that could be of interest for the Russian Il-20 whose presence between Öland and Gotland could also be aimed at testing the Swedish Air Force air defense readiness.

Il-20 Coot

It is not clear yet whether any Swedish Gripen interceptor was scrambled to intercept the spyplane.

According to some Svenska Dagbladet’s sources, Sweden did not launch any Gripen; other sources say the Gripens were launched, but a bit too late to intercept the intruder when flying between the Swedish islands.

Either case, the lack of proper/effective reaction by the Swedish Air Force to Russia’s aggressive posture in the Baltic is causing concern in Sweden.

In 2011, a Russian Il-20s was intercepted by JAS-39 Gripens of the Czech Air Force performing Baltic Air Policing tasks from Lithuania’s First Air Base in Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport as the image in this article shows.

H/T to Erik Arnberg for the heads-up

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