Pilots of Swedish Air Force F21 Wing, normally based at Luleå-Kallax, were ready to provide close air support to the Stockholm police during the visit of US president Barack Obama in the beginning of September 2013.
“During Obama’s visit I have used the training we got from the Swedish police for the first time”, admits pilot and commander of the 211th Fighter Division (211:e stridsflygdivisionen) Tobhias Wikström in an article published on the Swedish Armed Forces website Forsvarsmakten.se.
An undisclosed number of Swedish SAAB JAS 39 Gripen pilots have been developing assistance routines with the Swedish police to provide even armed or close air support in case of a terrorist attack, but that type of action clearly wasn’t necessary during Obama’s visit as everything went smoothly.
During the presidential visit F21 Gripens did fly combat air patrol missions at high altitude from Uppsala F16 Airbase (Ärna), using the Link-16 data connection to get clear situational awareness. The Gripens landed at Ärna on September 2nd.
The airbase is about 30 km (20 miles) north of Stockholm-Arlanda International Airport where USAF VC-25 landed as Air Force One on September 4th and took off a day later. During Obama’s stay Uppsala citizens even witnessed pairs of fully equipped Gripens flying low-level, low-speed aerial combat maneuvers over the less populated areas of the city.
When the Gripens flew their CAPs it was fairly crowded in the air, says commander Wikström on Forsvarsmakten.se. “We even identified and warned off ‘unidentified’ aircraft that came too close (to the secured airspace).”
The Flygvapnet Gripen escort that normally meets the airplane of an arriving head of state was not flown by F21 Wing. The temporarily base of operations during Obama’s visit, F16 Uppsala Ärna, was home to Swedish Air Force Saab JA 37 Viggen fighter unit until December 2003 when the airbase was reduced to a secondary airfield because of budget cuts.
F16 Uppsala still serves as regular secondary military base and is kept at a readiness level even in winter times. It is home to the Aerial Combat School of the Swedish Armed Forces (no planes assigned) and houses the Uppsala University Hospital medevac flight consisting of an Aérospatiale (Eurocopter) AS 365N3 Dauphin (SE-JIA) in blue and white colours and a Bombardier Learjet 35. (SE-RKY)
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger
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