Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark Strike Deal to Operate Unified Nordic Air Defense Force

Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark Strike Deal to Operate Unified Nordic Air Defense Force
Russian fighter jets in Swedish airspace east of the Swedish Baltic Sea island of Gotland, on March 2, 2022. (Swedish Air Force/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts
3/28/2023
Updated:
3/28/2023

The air forces of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden have agreed to operate their fleets of more than 200 fighter jets as a unified Nordic air defense force aimed at countering the threat from Russia.

The four nations announced the joint agreement in separate statements on March 23.

Marking a first of its kind between the Nordic nations, the joint declaration of intent (JDI), was signed on March 16 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany by the commanders of the countries’ air forces.

The head of NATO Air Command, Gen. James Hecker, who also oversees the U.S. Air Force in the region, was present for the signing, officials said.

According to a statement from Denmark’s air force, the intention of the JDI is to bolster already well-established cooperation between the Nordic countries and strengthen the Nordic air forces.

“The ultimate goal is to be able to operate seamlessly together as one force by developing a Nordic concept for joint air operations based on already known NATO methodology,” Denmark’s air force said in the statement, according to a translation by Bloomberg.

Fleet Size of ‘Large European Country’

The nations will pursue four areas of action, according to Bloomberg: integrated command and control, operational planning and execution, flexible deployment of forces, and joint airspace surveillance and training exercises.

Currently, Norway has 57 F-16 fighter jets and 37 F-35 fighter jets and has ordered 15 more of the latter. Meanwhile, Finland has 62 F/A-18 Hornet jets and 64 F-35s on order, while Denmark has 58 F-16s and 27 F-35s on order. Sweden has more than 90 Gripens jets.

The exact number of those planes that are operational is unclear.

Maj. Gen. Jan Dam, commander of the Danish air force, said the move to unite was sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which began in February last year.

“Our combined fleet can be compared to a large European country,” Dam said. “We would like to see if we can integrate our airspace surveillance more, so we can use radar data from each other’s surveillance systems and use them collectively. We are not doing that today.”

While all four countries have committed to cooperating under the NATO guidelines, Finland and Sweden are still yet to join the trans-Atlantic military alliance, and must first obtain the approval of NATO’s 30 existing members.

Sweden, Finland NATO Bid

Both nations applied to join last year but their applications were being held up by Turkey, which along with Hungary has yet to ratify the memberships.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic countries of refusing to extradite members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, meanwhile, has accused the two Nordic nations of spreading “blatant lies” about Hungary which have raised questions among lawmakers in his party about whether to ratify the bids.

Despite the initial delay, Turkey and Hungary both announced earlier this month that they will sign off on Finland’s NATO membership, leaving Sweden still facing a waiting game, although it is widely expected to be admitted at some point in the future.

Speaking about the new joint force, Maj. Gen. Rolf Folland, the chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, told Defense News, “There is obvious interest in a regional initiative for a joint air command on NATO’s northern flank. We know the conditions in the High North well, and we have a lot to learn from each other.”

“With a total of almost 250 modern combat aircraft, this will be a large combat force that must be coordinated,” Folland added.

Russia has not publicly commented on the announcement of the newly-unified Nordic air defense force but has previously insisted it is not a threat to Finland and Sweden.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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