Fighter and reconnaissance operations from the air

Year round, day and night they stand prepared to protect Swedish borders. For more than 70 years, Swedish Air Force fighter aircraft have maintained incident preparedness.

A Gripen fighter aircraft takes off from an air base in Sweden
A Gripen fighter aircraft takes off from an air base in Sweden
A Gripen fighter aircraft takes off from an air base in Sweden. There are always fighter aircraft on standby. Photo: Louise Levin/Swedish Armed Forces

There are always fighter aircraft ready to take off from an air base somewhere in Sweden. The incident preparedness function, as it is called, conducts live fighter, attack and reconnaissance missions.

The incident preparedness aircraft perform a variety of tasks, not only border surveillance and protection here and now. Other tasks are identification and documentation of activities in our immediate surroundings, e.g. military exercises, aircraft or ships.

“The information and documentation collected by the pilot is an important part of creating an image of the situation in our immediate surroundings and thereby, an understanding of the situation as a whole. With this image as a basis, we adapt our preparedness and activities, says Jörgen Lönngren”, Operations Officer at the Swedish Armed Forces Joint Operations Staff.

Swedish territory and air space are constantly surveyed by various sensors and radar stations located across the country. The pilots control the surveillance by means of their own vision as well as sensors on the aircraft, such as the aircraft radar or the reconnaissance pod, which is a large digital camera with advanced camera lenses. The pilots are also able to use small cameras to take high resolution photographs directly from the cockpit.

“Should unknown activity be detected on Swedish territory or air space, fighter aircraft are the most efficient means of countering an intruder. In addition to monitoring the events, the aircraft are tasked with stopping and rejecting the intruder” says Jörgen Lönngren.

The main part of the incident preparedness is organised within fighter and reconnaissance activities. However, when the Soviet submarine U-137 ran aground in the Karlskrona archipelago in 1981, the Swedish Air Force had fighter aircraft on standby.