In a historic move, four Nordic countries have decided to cooperate more closely on their air defence capabilities by operating their fighter jets as one fleet. This will enhance their interoperability, readiness, and deterrence in an increasingly tense region.
The air force commanders of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark signed a declaration of intent on March 16 on deeper cooperation, according to statements by the Finnish and Danish forces published Thursday and Friday, respectively.
“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.
The cooperation will encompass integrated command and control, operational planning and execution, flexible deployment of forces, and joint airspace surveillance and training.
The four countries have a combined fleet of about 250 fighter jets, consisting of F-16s (Norway and Denmark), F-18s (Finland), and Gripen (Sweden). They are all in the process of modernizing their aircraft with new models or upgrades.
Norway has already received some of its 52 F-35s from Lockheed Martin Corp., while Denmark expects to get its first batch of 27 F-35s this year. Finland recently selected Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as its preferred bidder for its 64-jet HX program worth $11 billion. Sweden is upgrading its Gripen fleet with new E/F variants and plans to buy another 60 jets.
The Nordic countries have been strengthening their defense ties in recent years amid growing concerns over Russia’s military activities and assertiveness in the Baltic Sea region and the Arctic. They have also increased their cooperation with NATO and other partners such as the U.S., U.K. and France.
Norway and Denmark are already members of NATO, while Finland and Sweden are close partners of the alliance. Finland applied for NATO membership in May last year together with Sweden but faced some resistance from Turkey and Hungary over political issues. However, both countries are expected to join eventually.
The Nordic concept for joint air operations will build on existing frameworks such as NORDEFCO (Nordic Defence Cooperation), JEF (Joint Expeditionary Force), and EDF (European Defence Fund). It will also align with NATO standards and procedures.
The Nordic air forces hope that by operating as one fleet they will achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness, and flexibility in responding to various scenarios and threats. They also hope to send a clear signal of solidarity and unity to potential adversaries.
“This is an important step towards strengthening our common security,” Finland’s air force commander Brigadier General Pasi Jokinen said.