One again, Russian Su-27s have been involved in a dangerous close encounter with a plane they have intercepted.
The Swedish Air Force operates a pair of Gulfstream IVSP aircraft, known in Swedish service as S102B Korpen, used for ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) purposes.
The aircraft, based on the American Gulfstream business jet but equipped with eavesdropping sensors, conduct surveillance missions in the Baltic Sea. According to Swedish Air Force officials, during those sorties, the Korpens fly in international airspace, with their transponders turned on, and regularly transmit their position to the relevant civilian air traffic control agency, both domestic and, if needed, foreign ones.
Nevertheless, as reported by the Swedish media outlet SvD Nyheter, the Swedish spyplanes are almost always intercepted by Russian armed fighter jets on Quick Reaction Alert at the Russian airbase in the Kaliningrad enclave.
Most of times such encounters are routine stuff, something that has happened in international airspace across the world, for several decades. However, Swedish officials who talked to SvD explained that the behaviour of the Russian Su-27 Flankers frequently scrambled to intercept the Gulfstreams has become increasingly aggressive.
The most dangerous incident occurred on Jul. 16, between Gotland and Latvia, when a Russian Su-27 Flanker, armed with 6 air-to-air missiles, intercepted one of the two Swedish ELINT jet, and flew as close as 10,7 meters of the spyplane.
Even if there was no real risk of collision, the incident highlighted a behavior that the Swedish military have not seen in previous years, SvD reported. In fact, international procedures recommend not flying closer than 50-150m from other planes during interceptions.
Actually, this is neither the first nor the last time a Russian Flanker performs a dangerous intercept on a foreign air arm’s surveillance plane.
On Apr. 10, 2012, a Royal Norwegian Air Force P-3 Orion flying over the Barents Sea came across a Russian Air Force Mig-31 Foxhound: the Norwegian crew initially observed the Mig-31 twice shadowing the P-3 at a safe distance, then disappearing. Moments later the Russian fighter jet came back from behind the patrol aircraft, so fast and close it was in danger of a mid-air collision.
There are several other similar incidents that did not end with a collision; however, mid-air collisions occur every now and then.
On Sept. 13, 1987, a RNoAF P-3B collided mid-air with a Soviet Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker over the Barents Sea.
Although damaged, both planes were able to land safely, but all the episodes we have recalled, from the oldest to the most recent between the Russian Flanker and the Swedish Gulfstream show how dangerous close encounters can be.
H/T Erik Arnberg and Lasse Holmstrom for the heads-up
According to the Swedish media outlet the incursion saw the two aircraft skirt the Polish airspace before heading north, at low altitude, towards the island Öland, in the Baltic Sea. At around 12:00 PM LT, the Russian planes entered the airspace over the Swedish territorial waters south of Öland.
Swedish Defense officials confirmed some Jas-39 Gripen fighters were scrambled from Ronneby airbase, in southern Sweden, to intercept the Russian planes but they did not reach the intruders as the Su-24s, after flying a couple of kilometers on the wrong side of the border, turned again eastbound, most probably towards Kaliningrad.
Even though the Swedish Armed Forces have not officially commented the incident, sources who talked to the Expressen said authorities believe the violation was aimed at probing the Swedish air defense readiness.
A series of photos will bring you aboard a Swedish Gripen during a IAM2014 mission over Iceland.
As we reported last week, from Feb. 3 to 21, Iceland Air Meet 2014 saw fighter planes from Sweden, Norway and Finland fly two to three daily waves in Iceland’s airspace, launching from Keflavik, the main operating base of the exercise.
The following photos, provided by the Swedish Air Force’s 212 Squadron, bring you aboard one of the seven JAS-39 Gripens the Swedish deployed to Keflavik, during some of the reconnaissance missions flown during IAM2014.
During such missions the Swedish Gripens carried the Reccelite pod as done during the Libya Air War in 2011 when the JAS-39 operated from Sigonella airbase in Sicily.
“Colt 21” flight of two lined up on runway 11 for take-off.
“Colt 21” heading for the CAP (Combat Air Patrol) station over the Atlantic after topping off the tanks with Swedish C-130 tanker “Esso 32”.
A 3-ship formation with a Gripen as the leader, overhead Keflavik.
Time for some snacks!
Image credit: Swedish Armed Forces, 212 Fighter Squadron
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.
NATO conducted a wide range air defence-related exercise in Iceland.
Personnel and weapons systems from Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden took part in the Iceland Air Meet 2014 (IAM2014) exercise, which took place between Feb. 3 and 21 in Iceland.
The large exercise took advantage of the concurrent deployment in Iceland of a Royal Norwegian Air Force detachment, involved in the regular NATO peacetime preparedness mission, although NATO mission and IAM 2014 remained two separate events.
For the first time ever, IAM 2014 saw the deployment to Iceland of aircraft from the Finnish and Swedish air forces, which took the opportunity to improve interoperability with both NATO and non-NATO members within the NORDEFCO (Nordic Defense Cooperation).
All the assets were placed under operational control of the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem, Germany which managed and coordinated the flying activities.
Keflavik was the main operating base of IAM 2014, where all aircraft were based. Serials spotted during the exercise were as follows.
Royal Norwegian Air Force: 675, 667, 293, 660, 688 (all F-16As) and 711 (F-16B)
Finnish Air Force: HN-457, HN-456, HN-454, HN-450, HN-416 (F/A-18s)
Finland Army: NH-207, NH-211 (NH-90s)
Sweden AF: 260, 263, 265, 271, 285, 286 (JAS-39 Gripens) and 837 (JAS-39 two seater); 84002 – (K)C130
At least one U.S. Air Force KC-135 from RAF Mildenhall supported the exercise, during which lots of sonic booms, even registered on seismometers, and low-flying “by six fighters trailing each other” in the West Fjords were reported.
Missions were flown two or three times a day, weekdays, usually 10:00, 14:00 and 19:00 hrs (+/-30 min) and take off and landing procedures usually lasting 30+ min each.
Usually each wave included four/five F-16 (doing Airspace Policing) and four Gripen and three F/A-18 flying per mission (11 or 12 fighters) plus tankers.
With the help of the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we had the opportunity to attend the media day of IAM 2014 at Keflavik and The Aviationist’s reporter Eggert Norðdahl took the images you can see in this article.
Noteworthy, during the media day there was a bomb threat (that was actually a hoax) on a Wow Air Airbus A320 that delayed the take off of all the fighter jets by one hour.