Over the past five years there have been 42 instances of Swedish border incursions, according to a special report from the Swedish Ministry of Defense, commissioned by newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Leading nations in the infraction stats were the US and Russia, followed by some of Sweden's NATO-member neighbors.
The stats were compiled by the Swedish Ministry of Defense, along with the Swedish Government. These figures had been classified until now, on 1 October new laws came into force, which makes more of such data accessible. “We're opening up more, so that people can follow what is happening for themselves. “It's all very important, considering that the number of military drills going on in the Baltic, and regions that adjoin Sweden is rising,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told Dagens Nyheter on 16 September. “The number of border incursions tripled in 2011. It was up twelve times in 2014, not even including the story of the submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. This year there have been eleven incursions already.”
Sweden's new Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, Micael Bydén, said that “Russia, in many respects” affects the development of the region. “In Russia they hold war games based on tougher scenarios – they fly and sail more often. We keep ourselves in combat readiness. We are using aircraft, detectors, and radar 50% more intensively than we did only a few years ago. Russia is a country that Swedes label as a border transgressor. However, the majority of the most-reported incidents involving Russian aircraft have occurred in international airspace.”
Surprisingly, the most frequent illegal crossings into Swedish territory have been made by the US – seven instances in five years (Russia's total is six). Most of Sweden's neighbors these days are NATO members (Sweden is not a NATO member – Editor) and the NATO alliance has raised its game in the Baltic States following Russia's annexation of Crimea. There have been sixteen Swedish border incursions by NATO-member states.
The incursions list:
USA, six incursions: The most infamous case was on 18 July 2014, when a Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint overflew eastern Gotland and Öland. The American plane was engaged in reconnaissance in international airspace when a Russian aircraft began pursuit, and the US crew requested permission to enter Swedish airspace. Despite being refused permission, the US aircraft continued its course and entered Swedish airspace.
There were two incursions in which the American military used civilian aircraft. This breaks all the rules. Commercial aircraft, regardless of their country of registration, are required to request permission to use Swedish airspace. Following the incidents, the US asked the Swedish Foreign Ministry to clarify what the rules are.
Russia, six incursions: “The most serious incursion into Swedish airspace by Russia took place at the time when I was Foreign Minister” recounted Mr Carl Bildt. On 17 September 2014, two Russian SU-44s crossed the Swedish air border over Öland. A similar incident involving a Russian SU-44 occurred south of Karlskrona, on 14 June 2014. In both cases Swedish Gripen interceptor aircraft were scrambled in response.
“The Russians also frequently deploy another kind of strategy,” a Swedish Foreign Ministry official told Dagens Nyheter. “The Russian pilots set a course head-on for Sweden, and then divert at the last second, or start flying manouevres near our border. Unlike other countries, Russia refuses to recognize these violations.”
Germany, six incursions: Two of these (in 2011 and 2014) occurred while Germany was taking part in NATO war games.
Norway, five incursions: The Swedish and Norwegian armed forces often stage war games which cross the border. Yet after the aviation part of the ACE-2015 exercises had ended, Norwegian aircraft continued to fly over Sweden without permission.
Monaco, three incursions: Monaco has no standing armed forces – the violations occurred when King Albert II travelled without requesting permission for his flight.
The Netherlands, two incursions: These occurred during the Netherlands' participation in NATO exercises in September 2013.
Poland, two incursions.
Qatar, two incursions.
Albania, Bahrain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Portugal and Turkey – one incursion each.
“We see no discernible pattern in these incursions” said Mr Micael Bydén.“They're just a combination of different countries, and different events. We also violate air borders sometimes. When I was Air Marshall, I had to discuss the matter with our neighbouring countries – but only a few times”, he admitted.
However, Mr Bydén comes down hard on Russian flights operated without transponders – which make the aircraft invisible to civilian air traffic control. There have been two incidents in which civilian airliners to the south of Sweden have nearly collided with Russian planes. In addition to this, Russian aircrafts fly “provocatively close” to Swedish aircraft. The new information-access rules will bring such incidents into the public arena.