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US Bombers Debut on Swedish Soil in Historic Exercise

Two B-1B Lancers, assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., conduct a flyover before landing at Andersen AFB, Guam, July 17, 2020. The Bomber Task Force is deployed to Andersen AFB in support of Pacific Air Forces’ training efforts with allies, partners and joint forces. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Christina Bennett)InternationalIndiaAfricaWhile Sweden has held joint drills with US bombers for several years now, the visit by B-1Bs, prepared in great secrecy, marked their first presence in a country once associated with neutrality and non-alignment.Two strategic bombers from the US Air Force landed on Monday at Norrbotten Wing near the city of Lulea in northern Sweden, for a joint drill with the Nordic country’s military.The two B-1Bs are part of the so-called Bomber Task Force (BTF), a strategic mission undertaken by the US Air Force Global Strike Command to help develop the ability to operate from unfamiliar locations and integrate with allies and partner nations. In Lulea, the bombers were accompanied by three Swedish Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets and one US Air Force Hercules-type cargo plane with about 50 soldiers.This marked the first presence of US bombers on Swedish soil in modern times. Swedish Deputy Air Force Chief Brigadier General Tommy Petersson described the landing as a «historic event.»»In these troubled times and while waiting for Swedish NATO membership, it is important to have strong partners and the US is, together with Finland, Sweden’s most important cooperation partner,» Petersson told Swedish media.Sweden has been holding joint drills with US bombers for several years. The current event, however, has been, according to Petersson, planned for a long time on the initiative of Sweden and preceded by great secrecy. Its length remains unknown even as of now.Petersson furthermore called Norrbotten County a «strategically important area.» According to the air force commander, the purpose of the drill is to practice the defense of the country.

Return to «Nation-Under-Threat» Rhetoric

Barely yesterday, the Swedish parliamentary defense committee published a report harkening back to the Cold War-era, according to which the risk of an armed attack against Sweden has increased. Unsurprisingly, Russia was singled out as the biggest and most direct threat – a rather stale trope not uncommon for the Nordic nation, which has conjured the image of the «threat from the East» for centuries, with the same one-size-fits-all descriptions used to describe Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union and modern-day Russia.MilitaryAs NATO Bid Fizzles, Sweden Conjures Up Cold-War Boogeyman of ‘Russian Attack’19 June, 11:47 GMTOver the recent decade alone, the overhyped «Russian threat» has been used frequently to secure defense allotments. Similarly, the new report called for a larger Swedish army, more conscripts, new submarines and not least a continued strengthening of the air force – alongside a larger emphasis on NATO.Tellingly, the very same «Russian threat» was last year used as a pretext to abandon the long-standing non-alignment, albeit increasingly formal in recent years, and file a bid to join NATO, which subsequently stalled due to pushback from Turkiye and Hungary.

What is a B-1B Lancer?

The US Air Force’s Rockwell B-1B Lancer is a four-engined long-range bomber that can carry conventional bombs as well as air-to-surface missiles and nuclear weapons.

It is designed for supersonic speed and has a range of up to 12,000 kilometers and has variable-sweep wings. The plane is 44 meters long and has a wingspan of 42 meters. It is commonly known as «The Bone» (from B-one).

Along with the B-2 and B-52, the B-1 is one of the US Air Force’s three types of strategic bombers. With deliveries started in 1985, B-1B has been built in just over 100 copies.

In December 2022, its next-generation replacement, the B-21 Raider, was demonstrated by the manufacturer Northrop Grumman.

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