Swedish Gripen fighters arrive at Eielson

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Peter Liander, Swedish Air Force
  • Cooperative Cope Thunder Public Affairs
The Swedish Air Force endured a long journey to participate in the Pacific Air Forces exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder for the first time.

In a journey that would span more than five days, seven Gripen fighters left Sweden on July 13 for the multinational exercise. The first leg of their trip took them west to the Royal Air Force station at Lossiemouth, Scotland. After being refueled, the next stop was at Keflavik, Iceland.

Two Swedish Air Force C-130 Hercules were used as transportation for ground crew, maintenance equipment and spare parts. The next day the squadron continued to Sondre Stromfjord, an airfield located at the southwest part of Greenland. After a few hours rest, the pilots took off for the next destination, Iqualuit in the northeast corner of Canada.

The journey continued the next day, via Churchill to the Canadian air base Cold Lake. The two remaining legs before reaching Eielson Air Force Base were carried out on July 17. After a short stop at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, the Gripen landed as planned at Eielson.

By that time, the Swedish pilots and the 23 technicians from the ground crew had reached a significant milestone -- the distance flown from Sweden was 5,495 nautical miles.

Lt. Col. Ken Lindberg, commanding officer for Tango Red, is proud of the Swedish team's execution of the first phase of this exercise.

"I am very pleased that we arrived at Eielson on time according to our schedule. The personnel have done an excellent job, both in the planning phase and the execution," he said.

"During these past five days we have been operating out of some unusual places. All the while, we were continuously changing time zones," Colonel Lindberg said.

The colonel emphasized the importance of the Swedish Air Force participating in the exercise.

"This is the first time we have taken the Gripen to the U.S. for an exercise and we are looking forward to be a part in this. It will give us a lot of important experiences for future deployment outside Sweden," he said.

Cooperative Cope Thunder is designed to sharpen the combat skills of the participating aviation units. It provides training for deployed maintenance and support personnel in support of large force deployment air operations.