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Swedish Intelligence Gathering Aircraft Carries Out Surveillance Missions Over Finland

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Swedish surveillance
The first part of the track of the Swedish S 102 B on Aug. 2, 2023 (screenshot via Flightradar24.com)

The Swedish SIGINT aircraft has flown close to the borders with Russia for two consecutive days.

On Aug. 2, 2023, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen GIV-SP Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft carried out a surveillance mission over Finland. It was the very first time the aircraft could be tracked online inside the Finnish airspace. Using callsign SVF 666, the S102B #102002/022 took off from Linköping, in southern Sweden, at 09.57LT and headed northeast towards the Finnish airspace, cruising at FL390.

After overflying Rovaniemi, the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft descended to FL250 and flew some racetracks over the northern part of Finland, west of Murmansk. It then headed southbound and established another surveillance pattern parallel to the border with Russia north of St. Petersburg.

Th S 102 B Korpen is a highly modified Gulfstream IV aircraft equipped with sensors to perform signal intelligence: it can scan the electromagnetic spectrum to find, collect and categorize signals from radars, navigation equipments and weapon systems. The Swedish Air Force’s 74th Special Aviation Squadron, based at Malmen Airport outside Linköping, operates two such special mission planes.

The Korpen (Swedish Armed Forces)

Overall, its mission on Aug. 2, lasted 7 hours, with 4 being “on station”. We don’t know where its sensors were pointing but it’s safe to assume that flying over northern Finland they had a good reach of the Russian military activities in the Kola Peninsula, home to Putin’s Northern Fleet that, along with several other Russian Navy warships, is taking part in Ocean Shield 2023 naval exercise.

Interestingly, the aircraft carried out a similar mission profile on the following day, Aug. 3, 2023, taking off from Lulea, in northeastern Sweden. But the Korpen this time was not alone: as SVF666 (same callsign as yesterday) flew over southern Finland in the racetrack used to keep an eye on the region of St. Petersburg, a U.S. Air Force RC-135W Rivet Joint (JAKE 11) was on duty on the northern racetrack. The missions of the two aircraft were clearly coordinated in such a way, there was a constant surveillance both in the north (Murmansk) and south (St. Petersburg) areas.

JAKE 11 on Aug. 3, 2023 (Image credit: via Flightradar24.com)

That Rivet Joint (#62-4131) is not new to the Finnish airspace: on Mar. 23, 2023, it flew the type’s first mission over Finland. This is what this Author wrote commenting that first historic mission:

While RC-135s operate in the Arctic region, “observing” the Russian movements in the Barents area, also dubbed “Russia’s Naval Backyard”, from the eastern part of the Finnish airspace, they can surveil the movements along the Finland/Russia border from a much closer and “comfortable” position: from there, the Rivet Joint’s wide array of antennae and sensors, can eavesdrop enemy signals, transmissions, and detect frequencies used by radio and radars, pinpointing sites of interest, mobile stations, SAM batteries, etc. within a large area of operation.

Finland joined NATO in April while Sweden will join the Alliance in the near future, but a new extended military cooperation in the Arctic and Baltic regions is already underway.

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

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