Defense Of Sweden! US Holds Rare ‘Bomber Drills’ Near Russia With B-52, B-1 Warplanes & JAS-39 Gripens

On March 6, the US Air Force conducted a rare dual bomber flyover over Stockholm, featuring a B-52 Stratofortress and a B-1 Lancer flanked by Swedish Air Force Gripens. 

The US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) highlighted the flyover’s route, which included prominent landmarks like Avicii Arena, Sweden’s Parliament House, and Stockholm Arlanda Airport.  

The B-52 was from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., while the B-1 was from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. 

Although both bombers were initially slated for a CONUS-to-CONUS mission, meaning a round trip without landing, the B-1 diverted to RAF Fairford, U.K., as confirmed by a spokesperson after social media sightings and reports. 

The Swedish Armed Forces stated that the exercise aimed to rehearse the defense of Sweden and the capacity to collaborate with other nations, in this case, the US. 

“The Swedish Armed Forces have progressively increased and developed collaborative capabilities by exercising the entire chain, from communication to escort and live ammunition drops,” the Swedish Armed Forces added. 

General James Hecker, commander of USAFE, expressed optimism about the deepening collaboration between the US and Sweden as the latter has become NATO’s 32nd member. 

He described initiatives like the joint flyover as the initial steps toward bolstering international stability and security. 

Such demonstrations of support have occurred earlier, such as B-52 flyovers over North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia in August 2022. These missions aimed to affirm the US commitment to NATO Allies and partners in Southeastern Europe.  

In January 2024, F-16s undertook aerial maneuvers over Bosnia and Herzegovina, intending to discourage secessionist activities. Likewise, in May 2021, B-52s conducted overflights across all NATO nations. 

Even so, the joint flyover of the B-52 and B-1 bombers in Stockholm was an uncommon sight. It followed closely after two B-1s returned from a deployment to Luleå-Kallax Air Base, Sweden, where B-1s engaged in joint training exercises with the Swedish Air Force, including surface attack, air interdiction, and close air support missions. 

File Image

NATO Drill In The Nordic Region

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland moved swiftly to join the NATO alliance, spurred by heightened security concerns across Europe. 

Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, was admitted as the 31st NATO member in April 2023, while Sweden became the 32nd member recently on March 7, 2024, after depositing its instrument of accession to NATO with the Government of the United States in Washington DC.

Sweden’s NATO membership would significantly bolster the alliance’s military capabilities, particularly regarding resources tailored to Baltic Sea conditions, including its fleet of Gripens and submarines.  

On March 3, NATO launched an exercise called Nordic Response drills, aimed at safeguarding its expanded Nordic territory. These drills, spanning nearly two weeks, are taking place in the northern regions of Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

The ongoing 12-day Nordic Response drills involve over 20,000 troops from 13 nations, reflecting the alliance’s commitment to regional defense. The maritime component includes over 50 submarines, frigates, corvettes, aircraft carriers, and various amphibious vessels. 

100+ fighter jets, transport & maritime surveillance aircraft, helicopters & Special Forces will operate during the exercise. NATO

The Norwegian military reported that more than 100 fighter jets, transport aircraft, maritime surveillance aircraft, and helicopters participated in the exercise in the air. 

The NATO drills in the Arctic involved simulated scenarios, including an imagined attack on the Arctic tundra, signaling the alliance’s readiness to respond to potential threats in the far north.

The exercise, which continues until March 15, involves the participation of Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. 

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Minister said that Russia was closely monitoring NATO’s Nordic Response 24 drills.

“The military is monitoring them; all necessary means are available. Our political stance is well-known: We think that these drills are of a demonstrative and provocative nature,” he said. 

“Any military exercise, especially near the line of engagement, increases the risks of military incidents. So, from the point of view of ensuring Russia’s defense capability, all necessary measures are being taken,” the Minister stressed. 

He added that the ongoing military activity, including NATO’s exercises and the involvement of new members, was exacerbating tensions and adding to the risks in northern Europe, thereby weakening European security.