HomeNewsArticle Display

Swedish pilots presented with US Air Medal

From left to right, Col. Lars-Erik Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjober, and Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Veltri stand beside the official photo which depicts the event that earned the Swedish pilots their U.S. Air Medals in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 28, 2018. The Swedish Airmen risked their lives to save an SR-71 and the aircrew, Tom Veltri and Duane Noll, on June 29, 1987. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O'Connor)

Swedish Air Force Col. Lars-Erik Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjober, and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Veltri stand beside the official photo which depicts the event that earned the Swedish pilots their U.S. Air Medals in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018. The Swedish airmen risked their lives to save an SR-71 and the aircrew, reired Lt. Cols. Tom Veltri and Duane Noll, on June 29, 1987. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O'Connor)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 28, 2018. Gen. Williams thanked the four Swedish Airmen who risked their lives to save an SR-71 and the aircrew in 1987. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O'Connor)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018. Williams thanked the four Swedish Airmen who risked their lives to save an SR-71 and the aircrew in 1987. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O'Connor)

STOCKHOLM (AFNS) -- Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until last year the details of their mission remained classified.

During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.

Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.

“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”

According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.

“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”

Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.

“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”

The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
#ICYMI, #USAF senior leaders, #CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright and @SecAFOfficial, discuss their priorities on the future of… https://t.co/qfmTLLg8xW
#F35 experts from the U.S., Australia, Japan and South Korea met recently to build on the success of the March 2017… https://t.co/fvVd3EARAT
A #B52H Stratofortress taxis on the runway @TeamMinot on March 5, 2019. The B-52 can perform #strategic attack, clo… https://t.co/AyWJ5zFo6M
#DYK, #MWDs go to basic training just like #Airmen do. Learn how teams train to build a rapport to bring a mutual k… https://t.co/HcD2pnqu1v
.@the182AW #Airmen do not mind getting greasy making missions happen. @AirNatlGuard @IL_Natl_Guard https://t.co/B6pkJ7LB3v
Refueling procedures differ from aircraft to aircraft. Learn how #CV22 Osprey #pilots performed recently with the… https://t.co/iXfoGWYCZ3
RT @Southcom: #SOUTHCOM Military Dep. Commander @USAirForce Lt. Gen. Michael Plehn met today w/ Colombian Army Maj. Gen. Luis Navarro Jimén…
RT @AFSOUTH: 🇨🇴The @FuerzaAereaCol is training with 🇺🇸U.S. joint forces and 5 Partner Nation Air Forces at @NellisAFB for🚩#RedFlag! This is…
Our friends over @48FighterWing got a great photo of an #Airman working on the #F15 #StrikeEagle, helping to ensure… https://t.co/3voiBxkfa1
#Airmen from the U.S., Thailand, & Singapore visited a local school as part of a cultural exchange during Exercise… https://t.co/7yUZ8QIwRK
It's all in the details as Aircrew Flight Equipment #Airmen supply lifesaving equipment, ensuring aircrews continue… https://t.co/7zbizluJOU
The #AirForce is all about going the extra step to ensure things are done the right way. This precaution is pertine… https://t.co/EcLxM9LYXJ
RT @Offutt_AFB: “We took a hit with some flooding, but we are going to regenerate and we are going to come back stronger, more lethal, and…
RT @SecAFOfficial: Right now, 1/3 of @Offutt_AFB is heavily-flooded, including their HQ building. Thankfully, people & aircraft are safe...…
#ICYMI: We recently released our latest Air Force TV Podcast, featuring @AstroHague! Never miss a future #USAF TV p… https://t.co/ubBdl730Dl
“Fulfilling our Nation’s Promise” is the motto of @dodpaa located at @JointBasePHH. Its mission – “To provide the f… https://t.co/WWxcKOUUaF
.@Offutt_AFB #Airmen worked around the clock to fortify facilities w/ 235,000+ sandbags and 460 flood barriers, min… https://t.co/Hw45u8RNhT
This new laser cleans up corrosion & helps @AndersenAFBGuam #Airmen get the mission done faster, cheaper, & more sa… https://t.co/cmMz6wQvaF
.@HQUSAFEPA works to thwart Norway's tolls, upgrades fleet to #electricvehicles saving approximately $4000 per year… https://t.co/m3GU8q34aZ
#Airmen & #Soldiers deployed to two different installations in #Qatar combine optometry capabilities to ensure serv… https://t.co/SgRGYCiInG