The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet says the exercises are an American initiative. “It’s a natural development. We’re partners they can rely on,” says Major General Micael Bydén, commander of the Swedish Air Force. He says having Swedish Gripens, American F-16s, and Finnish F-18s all taking part will mean they can practice both offensive and defensive maneuvers.
The exercises, which take place during March and April, come as tensions have increased following the situation in Ukraine, and incursions by Russian warplanes into or close to Swedish airspace, as well as a recent hunt for a submarine intruder in the waters just outside Stockholm.
Neither Sweden nor Finland are part of NATO, but are members of the Partnership for Peace program. In recent weeks some opposition politicians have called for a study into possible Swedish NATO membership, a proposal the government has rejected.