Preparations for Nordic Battlegroup

From 1 January next year Nordic Battlegroup, EU’s rapid response force, will be ready to be deployable for operations anywhere in the world. The force includes one Swedish helicopter unit, HU BG15, (and one helicopter unit from Finland) which includes personnel and helicopters from the Helicopter Flotilla in Linköping. Earlier it was Family Day and chances for relatives get a better understanding and awareness about possible events during the readiness period.

Emma and Hanna Persson’s father Ulrik is part of the helicopter unit and both his daughters had to chance to go for a ride in Helicopter 16. "It was both fun and exciting, but the sharp turns were a bit scary!” Photo: Anna Lindh/Swedish Armed Forces
Maria Johansson shows off her equipment to her younger sister Karin Johansson. Photo: Anna Lindh/Swedish Armed Forces
Everyone was invited to take a 20-minute tour flying over Linköping by Helicopter 16. Most of the family members accepted the invitation. Photo: Anna Lindh/Swedish Armed Forces
Light refreshments and newly grilled hamburgers were served during the day. Photo: Anna Lindh/Swedish Armed Forces

“It is vital that we get across to you what your loved ones and I will be doing and that you feel that you are part our mission. We want you to feel secure about what might happen. During the day we will show you what we do and give you the chance to ask any questions that you wish to ask,” says Torgny Törestrand, commander of the helicopter unit during the introductory information meeting.

More than 2,400 participants from seven countries compose the Nordic Battlegroup which is part of the EU’s crisis response capability. Following a jointly taken order from the EU, the force should be deployable in a crisis zone within 10 days. The Swedish helicopter unit which is made up of 35 people and three Helicopter 16s from other helicopter squadrons is part of the Expeditionary Air Wing together with a number of Hercules aircraft, JAS 36 Gripen aircraft and Finnish helicopter ambulances (MEDEVAC). The Swedish helicopter unit’s main task is to transport troops and materiel by air, i.e. play a supporting role that allows the ground units do their jobs as effectively as possible.

“We are just a small part of the main force but we play a vital role. If we were in Africa, for instance, where roads are poor and sometimes even non-existent, helicopters are crucial for getting food, water and materiel to our soldiers. The Helicopter 16 is a very strong helicopter and thus highly suited to the purpose.”

In addition to troop and materiel transports, HU BG15 will also be tasked with flying CASEVAC missions, transporting casualties from the combat zone to hospitals.

To be well prepared for next year, preparations are in full swing at the Helicopter Flotilla in Linköping. All the equipment that could be useful to the helicopter unit during operations was collected together last week. A field hanger and an HQ consisting of a series of tents that have been pitched in the area, which family members now had the possibility of visiting. The family members, numbering around 70, also had the chance to try the helicopter simulator and go for a ride in a Helicopter 16.

An extra Family Day will be arranged at the end of November. This time, representatives from the HR department of the Helicopter flotilla will give a presentation about the kind of support that the Swedish Armed Forces can provide before, during and after an operation.