Updated Mar 24, 2023, 12:00pm EDT

Nordic countries agree to develop joint air force operations

Major Generals Juha-Pekka Keränen, Jonas Wikman, Rolf Folland, and Jan Dam.
NATO allied Air Command

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The News

The air force commanders of four Nordic countries agreed on a plan to operate their fighter jets as one fleet.

Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark will develop a “common Nordic Warfighting Concept for Joint Air Operations,” they said in a press release shared with Semafor, adding that the operation will be developed using NATO frameworks.

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Know More

The four countries plan to integrate their air command and control operations, and combine their education and training exercises after meeting to sign the agreement last week.

Norwegian-language news site Aftenposten noted that the combined forces will operate 250 modern-combat aircraft, rivaling numbers seen in European superpowers like the U.K. and France.

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Step Back

The countries’ plan will follow a NATO framework. Norway and Denmark are already members of the multinational defense alliance, but Sweden and Finland are still awaiting a decision on their acceptance.

Both countries applied to join NATO following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, but their approval has been held up as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan refuses to agree to their admission.

On Thursday, Ankara agreed to allow Finland membership, but has held out on approving Sweden over concerns the country is too friendly to groups Turkey views as terrorists.

NATO members must agree unanimously for new countries to be adopted into the alliance.

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The Expert View

Jamie Shea, an associate fellow at Chatham House’s international security program and a former NATO official, told Semafor that the agreement is emblematic of other strategic partnerships under way in Europe.

There is a “tendency [for] everybody to sort of look at how they can help their neighbors,” following the onset of the war, he said.

The Nordic air force agreement isn’t too far off from how non-NATO countries like Finland and Sweden have operated in the past, Shea added. “Sweden and Finland have worked very extensively with NATO for many years before they applied for membership, and their defense was wholly interoperable with NATO,” he said.

There may be a political strategy at play too, given Turkey’s ongoing block of Sweden’s entry into the alliance. Shea believes it’s likely that Ankara will eventually allow Sweden to join NATO, and the agreement between the Scandinavian nations could be a move to start preparing for that eventuality, he said.


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