Unique opportunity for air defence toexercise against American attackhelicopters

"You follow the target with the thumb stick and fire the missile by taking off the safety and pressing the button with the lever to your right", Missile operator, Daniel Hansson, shows Major Romanowski of the American 12th Combat Aviation Brigade how to fire the Swedish RBS 70 missile.

Missile operator, Daniel Hansson from the air defence battalion in Halmstad, shows Major Romanowski how to handle the RBS 70 system. Photo: Stefan Bratt/Swedish Armed Forces.
RBS 70 air defence units cooperated with a platoon of lvkv 90 air defence vehicles from Skaraborg’s Regiment in Skövde and practised against American attack helicopters. Photo: Stefan Bratt/Swedish Armed Forces.
RBS 70 air defence units cooperated with a platoon of lvkv 90 air defence vehicles from Skaraborg’s Regiment in Skövde and practised against American attack helicopters. Photo: Stefan Bratt/Swedish Armed Forces.

For several days during the Armed Forces exercise, AURORA 17, Swedish air defence units have had a unique opportunity to exercise against a highly sophisticated threat – AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

– From our side, these exercises are a unique opportunity for our units to practice against sophisticated systems such as attack helicopters. In addition, during the exercise, we can scale up the level of difficulty so that both sides get a good outcome in terms of the respective system's performance, says the exercise leader, Major Oskar Hullegård.

FLYING AT THE LOWEST ALTITUDE

The American Apache Helicopters come in just a few metres above the ploughed fields, about 10 km north of Visby. At the end of the fields, three air defence vehicles (lvkv 90s) and a number of RBS 70 fire units are ready to home their systems in on the approaching helicopters. Tuesday's events were followed by visits by a number of representatives of both the Swedish and international media, and by delegations from the Swedish and Finnish defence ministries, headed by their respective defence ministers. The American guests confirmed that they are also keen to get as much as possible out of the exercise.

– There are a number of important goals we hope to achieve by participating. First of all, it’s important for us to practice the logistics that come with moving the unit from one country to another. Secondly, we’re able to exercise against systems that we don’t normally encounter and, not least, we get knowledge of how the Swedish Armed Forces and its various parts operate, which is so important if we ever find ourselves collaborating in another context, says Major Romanowski.

”There are several good reasons for us participating in your major exercise. One is that it’s important for us to understand how your forces act and operate, if we ever have to take part in combined operations together”, says Major Romanowski from 2 nd Battalion, 12th Air Combat Brigade. Photo: Stefan Bratt/Swedish Armed Forces.

EXPERIENCE FROM AFGHANISTAN

He tells us that his unit has been involved in lengthy tours in Afghanistan and prefers to carry out tasks under the cover of darkness.

– When we fly during daytime we are at our most vulnerable and, because our systems are very well suited to night combat, we prefer to operate in the dark," explains Romanowski.

The Swedish unit instructor, Captain Fredrik Ingvarsson, confirms that their American guests have been very keen to share knowledge and discuss the tactics they use for their own tasks.

– I think this is a real win-win situation when our operators explain how they act in certain tactical situations and, in turn, the American pilots give us their view on what we can do to attack them, says Fredrik Ingvarsson.

Daniel Hansson also adds:

– It’s good to know that in certain situations the pilots think our systems are very difficult to handle. Great that we can make life a little bit tricky for them…

Major Oskar Hullegård from the Air Defence Regiment and American colleagues, based in Germany, planned the exercises where US attack helicopters practise against Swedish air defence units. In the picture, Hullegård talks with one of the guest pilots, Captain Ryan Eckerson. Photo: Stefan Bratt/Försvarsmakten
A Chinook transport helicopter from the US 12th Air Combat Brigade’s base in Germany sweeps in across the newly ploughed fields north of Visby and an RBS 70 operator lines up his target. Photo: Stefan Bratt/Försvarsmakten