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  • Writer's pictureMike Lintott-Danks

Nordic Response 2024, Kallax Air Base, Sweden

During exercise Nordic Response 24, Airspeed Media was part of the invited press for the media day, 6th March 2024, at F.21 Wing at Kallax Air Base, Sweden. This gave the press a chance to see up close the operations being completed in support of this exercise, in the frozen north of these Nordic countries.

Nordic Response 24 background, from the Norwegian Armed Forces

What: Nordic military winter exercise based on the Norwegian exercise Cold Response. Cold Response has a long history and takes place in Northern Norway every other year. Thanks to the NATO expansion with Finland and now Sweden, we are expanding Cold Response to a Nordic Response. The exercise is part of the NATO’s Steadfast Defender and also closely connected to the UK-led naval exercise Joint Warrior.

When: The field exercise lasts from 3 to 14 March 2024 but there will be military activity in the weeks before and after this. Some of the allied forces arrived in Norway in January and February to prepare for the exercise.

Where: Northern Finland, Norway, and Sweden. In Norway, the exercise will mainly take place in northern Troms County and the west of Finnmark County. There will also be maritime activity along the coast of northern Norway.

Who: 20,000 soldiers from 13 countries. Norway participates with 8,000 troops. Other large nations are Finland, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the USA. Approximately 10,000 of the participants will be on land and will be the most visible during the exercise. Around 110 aircraft and 50 vessels will take part, along with several civilian organisations in Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Why: At Nordic Response 2024 we train on defending and protecting the Nordic Region and our territories. We need to be able to fight back and stop anyone who tries to challenge our borders, values and democracy. With the current security situation in Europe, the exercise is extremely relevant and more important than ever before.

Why here: The Nordic Region and our areas in the High North comprise an important and strategically located flank of NATO. At the same time, NATO is also the backbone in the defence of the Nordic Region. This makes it vital for us to train together with allied forces in the region. The exercise increases Nordic preparedness and our capability to conduct large-scale joint operations in challenging weather and climate. We, and our allies, need to know our own

Before heading out to the active ramps there was a presentation from representatives from the Svenska Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force), Ilmaviomat (Finnish Air Force) and United States Air Force relating to their involvement in exercise Nordic Response 24.

Dept Commander Swedish Air Force Brigadier General Tommy Petersson

For exercise Nordic Response 24 the Swedish forces have “3000 land units with 1400 personnel from the Swedish Air Force (Svenska Flygvapnet) involved. All bases and units are participating but the main focus, due to its location, is F.21 Wing, at Kallax, but there are assets at Bardufoss AB in Norway as well.”. In total there are 20,000 participants from all nations in this air, land, and sea exercise, which covers the whole artic area.

The usual Swedish national exercise has been merged with Nordic Response 24 this year with this exercise merging all the Nordic assets (Finland, Sweden and Norway) together, with the main operations centre being in Northern Norway. Here they lead and command the air assets with the base assets being led by the Swedish Air Force.

“As Sweden and Finland have applied for NATO membership the leadership of Nordic Response is a great example of the enhanced Nordic operations we can be completing right now, with one of the main goals to show our interoperability with the other Nordic countries and with other forces such as the US.”

“Nordic response is part of a bigger exercise series with NATO, STEADFAST DEFENDER. This is a large umbrella exercise that is being held through the Spring of 2024 which focus’ on the movement of forces from North America to Europe and then a series of exercises across Europe. As well as Nordic Response there is a similar exercise currently happening in Poland.”

F 21/Norrbotten Wing Commander Colonel Peter Greberg​

For this exercise, along with the F 21 based Gripens we have four ship of F/A-18Cs from the Finnish Air Force and a US Air Force KC135R deployed to the base.

As the host nation support is something we have been doing frequently at Kallax AB, as the Arctic Challenge Exercise is held here every second year, which has made us very professional in providing whole mission support.

“One thing that is interesting is that the Finnish Squadron were supposed to be at another location for this exercise but due to technical issues with communications they had to redeploy, so we assumed the task last week to host the Finnish squadron. I would say the call came last Friday and today they are here launching operations, so within 5 days, which 2 were the weekend, this was achieved. This also shows how well we train and have trained together with the Ilmaviomat over many years.” 

USAF Lt. Col. Ryan Mowers (Detachment Commander)

The Boeing KC-135R deployed to Kallax is from the 914th ARW at Niagara Falls International Airport, New York and is part of the Air National Guard. This forward deployed aircraft is attached to the European air forces with the main flight objectives being daily tasks to provide Air to Air Refuelling to all the NATO partners, including the USMC F/A-18s and F-35s deployed in Norway.

We have had great support from the base with regards to the ground command, control and communications and this is an outstanding opportunity for us to exercise in both the artic region and with many other air forces.

Lapland Air Wing Callsign ‘Landlord’, Finnish Air Force

The deployed Ilmaviomat assets are from Fighter Wing 11 based at Rovaniemi Northern Finland. “We will be operating from Kallax with the four ship of F18s that just arrived, and we will soon be departing for our first wave of COMAO or main wave of this exercise from here.”

All branches of the Finnish forces are participating in STEADFAST DEFENDER/Nordic Response 24 with the objectives being the co-operation with all Nordic Countries and with other NATO allies.

“At a tactical level there are 2 main objectives. The reason we are here at Kallax AB, is to test our ability to be able to deploy our aircraft to different locations as we have already deployed F18s to Norway at Andoya air base and now we have the opportunity at F 21 to deploy a second detachment, here in Sweden, which is important training for us as a fresh (NATO) alliance member.”

“And the second tactical objective are the actual air operations, and this exercise gives a great opportunity for excellent training. We have the operational deployment up north in the artic environment which creates really challenging operations with all aspects of all the domain operations.”

Swenska Flygvapnet tactical turnaround demonstration

Dept Commander Swedish Air Force Brigadier General Tommy Petersson

It is important to be able to produce more sorties, due to the fewer aerial assets that both the Finnish and Swedish air force have, against an aggressor. To be able to do that we do it dispersed out into the forest, and we complete the Tactical turnaround in a very short time.

The tactical turnaround will be completed utilising one of the F 21 based Gripens. As soon as the engines are shut down the service vehicles will approach the aircraft, one is the maintenance vehicle and the other will handle the munitions and then there will also be a fuel truck.

All three of these tasks will be completed simultaneously, where maintenance issues are resolved, munitions will be attached and loaded on to the aircraft, using specialised tools to complete this task efficiently, all whilst the aircraft is being refuelled. For a proficient crew this will mean a tactical turnaround for an Air-to-Air mission is completed in 15 minutes. This concept uses conscripts who are commanded by an officer. The conscripts started their training in January 2024. This shows how proficient they have become in 8 weeks and how easy the aircraft is to turnaround and regenerate for the next mission.

We would like to thank Therese Aakerstedt, Head of Communication & Public Affairs, Swedish Armed Forces for the opportunity to visit F 21 at Kallax AB.

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