US units and aircraft are currently based on the Skaraborg Air Wing within the framework of Swedish Host Nation Support. The US units are part of a Swedish-led exercise held along the Baltic Sea coast. To the Skaraborg Air Wing, hosting foreign units entails challenges and opportunities.
The exercise involving US units has been planned for a long time and is conducted in November, and it is a part of Swedish-US bilateral cooperation.
“Strong ties to the US are vital to our and Europe’s security. Particularly concerning our military capability and technical supply. That is why we have close cooperation with the US, which this bilateral exercise demonstrates. The exercise reinforces our capability to conduct advanced air operations and efforts in Sweden and abroad”, says Colonel Malin Persson, Head of the Skaraborg Air Wing.
Security and service
US personnel is staying and working at the Skaraborg Air Wing for the duration of the exercise. Host Nation Support means that the Swedish Armed Forces, as well as other public agencies, invites and enables foreign units to operate on Swedish territory, with logistical and practical support. The hosting unit must be thoroughly prepared.
“My focus for host nation support is based on three ‘S’: safety, security and service”, Colonel Persson continues. Safety means safe operations, and to minimize risks of accidents and incidents, both on land and in the air. We have also prepared for managing the risk of Covid-19. Security is achieved through protection and surveillance of our operations as well as a high level of information security, and providing good service to the visiting units".
“I see this as the foundation. Air safety and operational security form the basis, to make sure that no one is injured. We must also ensure that we protect our protection-worthy assets. This is a highly classified exercise, which is important to consider”, Colonel Persson says.
Of course, a major security challenge is to minimize the risk of infections. This is something that has been considered already from the onset of planning the exercise. As far as possible, Swedish and US personnel are kept separated from each other.
“The head of US 352nd Special Operations Unit and I discussed ways to manage the pandemic, in order to not put our staff or third party in risk of being infected by Covid-19”, Colonel Persson concludes.
US personnel are also satisfied with the work that has been done to enable them to work and operate at the Skaraborg Air Wing.
“It feels great to be invited and to be able to work at this modern air base. Everything is just as good, or even better, as we are used to. And the Swedish Armed Forces has been very keen to solve our every need”, says the head of the 352nd Special Operations Unit in the US Air Force.
Cooperation for the future
Hosting a foreign unit also means training and developing cooperation ahead of future needs and situations.
“By further exercising together we hope we will be able to develop our partnership and we would very much like to continue building this cooperation on unit level”, the head of the 352nd Special Operation Unit concludes.