Nordic 'joint air force' initiative should strengthen Baltic security also

Swedish air force Saab JAS 39 Gripen at Ämari air base in Estonia (photo taken 2018).
Swedish air force Saab JAS 39 Gripen at Ämari air base in Estonia (photo taken 2018). Source: EDF headquaters/

Both Estonia's Ambassador to Finland, Sven Sakkov, and Colonel Janek Lehiste, Chief of Staff of Estonia's air force (Õhuvägi), say that a decision made by the Nordic countries to strengthen cooperation between their air forces will have the same, positive effect on Baltic air security, and will lead to new opportunities.

The development follows the ongoing NATO accession process on the part of Sweden and Finland, with the latter in particular making progress in recent weeks.

Col. Lehiste told ERR that the proposed joint air force was not being created as a single, unified organization, but instead that the air forces of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark want to improve the effectiveness of their air forces. through integrated planning and management.

"A more effective force in this context means that training cycles, operational procedures and logistical support involving the four countries are coordinated and harmonized," Lehiste said.

"The result will be a more capable and flexible force, which is ready to react to rapid changes in the security environment and is capable of creating operational challenges and problems for the enemy," he went on.

Lehiste also noted that three of the four countries either already have fifth generation U.S. F35 lighting stealth fighters, or are about to get them. "In this regard, greater cooperation in the field of logistical support and training is viable," he said. 

"In our view, this is a positive development - there are capable air forces in the region, which are ready to fight for airspace dominance," h

Sakkov: Development will strengthen NATO's northern flank

Ambassador Sakkov, who is also a former head of think-tank the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) said the four Nordic countries' decision to pool their air force capabilities arose form a meeting held on the fringes of last week's NATO air force commanders' meeting in Ramstein, Germany.

Joint intentions were also signed there, he added.

Sakkov said the cooperation would have: "Four major areas of activity. These are: Joint management, planning and execution of flight activities, more flexible cooperation of support systems and logistics, joint awareness of what is happening in the air, and joint training and exercise activities."

"This is a further development of the usual cooperation. The imminent accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO opens certain new perspectives. At the same time, I do not see anything revolutionary here either," he said.

According to Sakkov, from a Finnish perspective the Nordic states' air force cooperation will have the capability of flying over the far North, ie. Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Lapland. Sakkov noted that the Arctic Russian city of Murmansk is nearby, where Russia has a submarine base which forms a part of its strategic nuclear deterrent. For this reason, the Nordic countries' air force cooperation plans carry with them a strategic dimension also.

Intensifying cooperation provides opportunities to improve airspace surveillance in peacetime, he added. "If all are NATO members, it could be the case that all three need to defend their own airspaces at all times, or they can do so for each other's, too, on a rotational basis."

"Considering that these are militarily capable allies, this provides NATO's northern flank with a lot of energy," he added.

Norwegian paper Aftenposten reported this week (link in Norwegian) that the air force commanders of Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway have agreed to organize their air forces on a joint basis, going forward.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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