In a significant development focused on bolstering Sweden’s defense capabilities, the US Air Force, for the first time, deployed its B-1 bombers to the Nordic nation.
Swedish SAAB Jas Gripen fighters escorted the US bombers as they landed in Sweden on June 19.
As part of a strategic rotation, two B-1B Lancers belonging to the 7th Bomb Wing stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas successfully conducted a landing at Luleå Kallax Airbase in Sweden.
These aircraft have been deployed to Europe as part of a larger four-plane Bomber Task Force rotation, with their operational base being RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
In a statement, the service said, “US Forces have conducted exercises and training in the Arctic region, but the landing fortifies not only the friendship between the US and Sweden but the collective defense of Europe.”
Even so, the deployment of US Bombers serves as another notable indication of the deepening relations between the United States and Sweden, despite uncertainties surrounding Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Sweden’s application to join NATO has fostered a closer relationship with the United States.
With Finland already becoming the 31st member of NATO in April, there is optimism among US officials that Sweden could become the 32nd member, provided that Turkey withdraws its opposition.
The upcoming summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, scheduled for July, holds the potential for Sweden’s inclusion in NATO, further solidifying the partnership between the US and Sweden.
US Air Force Brig. Gen Bryony Terrell, US European Command deputy director for strategic plans and policy, said, “The US and Sweden have a long history together, in exercises and training, bilateral and multilateral security cooperation, and operations, of which today is one key example.”
In 2020, a pair of B-1B Lancers from the 28th US Air Force bomber wing based in Ellsworth, South Dakota, conducted the first flight of US Air Force strategic bombers over Sweden.
The purpose of that flight was to practice coordination and cooperation with Swedish ground services. This event marked an important milestone in strengthening military cooperation between the two nations.
Sweden Aims To Bolster Its Defenses
As announced by the US Air Force command, the primary objective of the bombers is to participate in joint exercises with the Swedish military.
The arrival of the strategic bombers in Sweden has been described as “groundbreaking” within the country, reflecting the significance of this event in strengthening bilateral cooperation and showcasing the mutual commitment to defense readiness.
Sweden’s defense minister and prime minister recently expressed their willingness to host NATO troops even before formally joining the alliance.
The integration of forces and equipment across Europe was highlighted as crucial in readiness to face current and future security challenges, as highlighted by Air Force Brig. Gen. Bryony Terrell.
According to a spokesperson from the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), personnel accompanying the bombers were transported via a C-130 aircraft. The duration of the deployment to Sweden remains unclear at this time.
But, the Swedish Armed Forces stated that the purpose of the deployment was to practice defense operations within Swedish territory.
During a press briefing on June 20, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh refrained from commenting on whether the US plans to increase the frequency of deployments while Sweden awaits NATO membership.
Singh said the relationship would strengthen when Sweden officially joins NATO as the 32nd member.
Meanwhile, amid concerns over a potential Russian attack and Turkey obstructing its NATO membership bid, Sweden is taking urgent measures to strengthen its defenses.
The parliamentary defense committee of the Nordic country has noted the need to address the escalating threat from Russia, particularly in light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the possibility of nuclear weapons being deployed.
According to a report by the committee, Swedish security and defense policies should be tailored to address the enduring threat Russia poses to European and global security.
The report also highlighted that the possibility of an armed attack against Sweden cannot be disregarded. This assessment underscores the importance of robust defense measures and preparedness to safeguard Swedish national security in the face of potential threats.