Nordic nations move to link air forces into 250-strong aircraft fleet

HELSINKI — Several Nordic countries have moved to deepen cooperation among their respective air forces to bolster the region’s defenses. The initiative, covered by a joint declaration of intent, or JDI, takes place against the backdrop of persisting security tensions, provoked by Russia’s war against Ukraine, that are impacting the High North and Baltic Sea neighborhoods.

The first of its kind between the Nordic states, the declaration was signed March 16 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany by the commanders of the Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Danish air forces.

The concept of a joint Nordic air force, comprising about 250 modern front-line combat aircraft, has been the subject of periodic discussions between the regional governments since the mid-1990s.

Sweden’s and Finland’s unaligned status remained an impediment to advancing talks and joint initiatives. But with the two countries primed to join NATO, Nordic governments find themselves on more solid ground to discuss a common action plan to create a so-called mini-NATO that would deliver a formidable and unified air force capability.

The primary aim of the joint declaration is to strengthen air force cooperation between the four Nordic states, precipitating concrete joint initiatives to develop a strong regional air defense. The idea is to elevate collaboration between Nordic air forces so they can operate together in all situations.

The air defense operations concept, embedded in the declaration, envisions joint Nordic air force cooperation developed along four principal lines of action. It also proposes the development of an integrated management structure for planning and executing air operations.

Moreover, the concept anticipates the development of a flexible and sustainable support system, joint air situational awareness, and joint training and exercise activities between the four Nordic air forces.

Maj. Gen. Rolf Folland, the chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, views the idea as a basis for creating a joint Nordic center for air operations that could also house the United States and Canada under a single command structure.

“There is obvious interest in a regional initiative for a joint air command on NATO’s northern flank. We know the conditions in the High North well, and we have a lot to learn from each other. With a total of almost 250 modern combat aircraft, this will be a large combat force that must be coordinated,” Folland said.

The last operational NATO headquarters in Norway — the Combined Air Operation Center-3 at Reitan, located east of Bodø — closed in 2008, with responsibility transferred to the alliance’s CAOC Finderup in Denmark.