Permission extended for Nato surveillance aircrafts to fly over Swedish airspace

The military alliance Nato has received permission to fly advanced radar and surveillance aircrafts, so-called AWACS, over Swedish airspace for six months starting this December, Swedish Television News reports.

The Swedish government first gave Nato permission to fly aircrafts over Swedish airspace in early 2014, and has since extended it one month at a time. The planes can track other aircrafts at distances of up to 400 kilometres and will fly over Sweden on their way from Norway to Poland.

Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace at the Institute for Strategic Studies in the UK, Douglas Barrie, tells Swedish Television News that the extension could be perceived as another step towards joining the military alliance.

"There are both practical and symbolic aspects to this potential extension. It reduces unnecessary paperwork, and it signals that Sweden and Nato has a strong partnership," Barrie says.

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, however, tells SVT that this decision is mainly practical.

"The government line is that Sweden will continue to be neutral and alliance-free. We have decided to cooperate with Nato without joining the military alliance, and we are sticking with that line," Hultqvist says.