Tag Archives: Kiruna

M-55: the spy who loves Sweden

It sounds like your typical James Bond Cold War era movie: under the cover of international research a Russian aircraft is secretly being used to spy on military bases and weapons tests. Welcome to Sweden in the year 2016, as the following story evolves.

Star of the show is the Myasishchev M-55, or the “U-2 spyplane” of the Soviet Union. Currently the only high altitude geophysical research aircraft the twin-boom jet its latest mission may have been more worth its NATO reporting name Mystic-B, then of its current additional name Geophysica.

Kiruna Airport

From 1996 the Russian aircraft has been employed for measurement campaigns funded by the European Union. For another such stratospheric mission for the earth’s climate research – ran by the Stratoclim project, the M-55 touched down on Kiruna Airport in the Swedish Far North on 15 April, just when the diplomatic okay for its being in Swedish airspace ended. If Swedish sources are correct, the Russian embassy had a hand into the late arrival, proposed flight pattern during the research and pressed for a late departure.

Leaving a cloud of snow behind (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
According to some sources, the Russian really wanted to see new-styled Gripen ops like this one up close. Image taken during an exercise on Vidsel Air Station in March 2016 (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

Swedish armed forces tests

The Swedish quality newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) writes that Russian planners deliberately wanted the plane to be up just when the Swedish armed forces ran two important exercises: another new fighter jet dispersal test like the one at Airheadsfly.com wrote about, as well as a weapons launch from the “Edwards” of Sweden: Vidsel Air Station and the nearby ranges.

High altitude departure

There is controversy on why the plane was grounded much longer than planned. The Russian embassy apparently noted technical issues, while the Swedish Ministry of Defence suspects spy plans. If there was a real problem with either the plane or the crew’s intentions is uncertain, but it left Sweden on 21 April on a high altitude of about 58,000 feet – apparently with everything technically working as planned.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The Myasishchev M-55 Geophysica (Image © Rob Schleiffert)

After the crash: Norway buys extra C-130J support

The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lossed in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lost in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

The new Norwegian government is fairly quick in its reaction to the October 23 official report that the training, documentation and procedures of its own air force were partly to blame in the crash of a RNoAF Super Hercules against the highest Swedish mountain on 15 March 2012.

Oslo now requested to technical, engineering, and software support for its C-130J aircraft for an estimated cost of US$ 107 million. The package will include familiarization training for the Portable Flight Planning System (PFPS) and Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS), spare and repair parts.

The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin Corporation, DBA Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, Georgia; Rolls Royce Corporation in Indianapolis, Indiana; and GE Aviation Systems LLC, DBA Dowty Propellers in Sterling, Virginia.

According to the official report of the Swedish Accident Investigation Committee (Haverikommission) inexperienced and not proper functioning air traffic controllers at both main ATC in Stockholm and at Kiruna Airport in the north of the country were also contributing big time in not helping the five Royal Norwegian Air Force personnel on board of the C-130J. They all perished when the plane hit the Kebnekaise mountain.

Norway operates four Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules tactical transport aircraft, which fly with 335 Squadron out of Oslo-Gardermoen.

Source: DSCA / Haverikomssion with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

Related posts

See also our Overview: Royal Norwegian Air Force

Official report confirms Norwegian C-130 crash causes

The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lost in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lost in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

UPDATE October 23, 2013: The official release of the report confirmed the conclusions in what already leaked out. Much to blame are the unexperienced air traffic controllers in Kiruna and Stockholm, and the Norwegian Air Force crew training and crew documentation.

The Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Hercules crash against Sweden’s highest mountain on March 15th, 2012, was mainly caused by interpretation failures of the instruments on board by the crew, a lack of training or preparation by the Norwegian Air Force and the lack of guidance by Swedish air traffic controllers.

Check the full version of our article on the causes already published in August 2013 >>>

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

Red Flag Scandinavian style: Arctic Challenge 2013

Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39A, seen in June 2006 at Satenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen have now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39 (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Three nations, 64 combat aircraft in the air at a time, the air forces of five countries and 2000 personnel. That is Arctic Challenge. Red Flag Scandinavian Style is being held for the first time from September 16 to September 27, 2013, in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

In total 90 aircraft will be deployed during ACE13 – nice abbreviation by the way – if one includes tanker and support aircraft. Pilots will train in co-ordinated combat tactics and procedures. The scenario is a peace enforcing operation with UN mandate.

The exercise is being conducted from four airbases: F21 Luleå-Kallax in Sweden, Bodø and Ørland in Norway and Lapin Lennosto i Rovaniemi, Finland. Operations are being directed from Bodø.

Every day two missions are flown. The morning ops are done in three different areas, one in Norway, one in Sweden and one in Finland. The afternoon program is solely executed in the vast training area of Northern Sweden, from Lycksele in the south to Kiruna in the north.

Contributing countries/units and airplanes are the 211, 212, 171 Air Combat divisions and 22 JAS 39 Gripen of the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet), F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, F-18C/D of the Finnish Air Force, Royal Air Force Typhoons and 30 F-15s of the US Air Force in Europe (USAFE; both F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle).

Sweden deploys a Saab S 100 (ASC890) AEW&C and a Saab Tp 100 transport aircraft. The USAFE sends two KC-135s, NATO deploys a Boeing E-3C Sentry AWACS.

Images and a text in Swedish of the operations on September 20th here >>>

Source: Flygvapnet (Sverige) / Forsvaret Norge

Related posts

Norwegian Hercules crash: crew, training and ATC

The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lost in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lost in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

UPDATE October 23, 2013: The official release of the report confirmed the conclusions in what already leaked out. Much to blame are the unexperienced air traffic controllers in Kiruna and Stockholm, and the Norwegian Air Force crew training and crew documentation.

The Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Hercules crash against Sweden’s highest mountain on March 15th, 2012, was mainly caused by interpretation failures of the instruments on board by the crew, a lack of training or preparation by the Norwegian Air Force and the lack of guidance by Swedish air traffic controllers.

According to Swedish press agency TT these are the main ingredients of a still secret report of the Accident Investigation Committee (Haverikommission), of which details have been leaked on Tuesday August 27th, 2013, and subsequently published by among others the Swedish nationwide newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

The aircraft crashed during a NATO-Swedish military exercise in March last year. The Norwegian transport aircraft would make a tactical approach from Evenes, Norway, through the Swedish mountains west of the town of Kiruna, and land at its airport. The flight stopped when the plane violently hit Mount Kebnekaise, with 2,106 meters above sea level the highest peak of Sweden. All 5 crew members on board were killed instantly.

According to the details from the crash investigation report leaked to TT/SvD newspaper the terrain warning instrument was set too low. An error message about the settings was misinterpreted by the crew.

The Norwegian pilots also did not know they flew in so-called uncontrolled airspace, meaning navigation was entirely without air traffic control. According to the leaked details crew, ATC in Kiruna and air operation leaders in Stockholm had not sufficiently communicated with each other.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

See also our Overview: Royal Norwegian Air Force