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    Suspicious Drones Bring Swedish Military Drill to a Grinding Halt

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    A major Swedish naval exercise was disrupted by the sudden appearance of remote-controlled drones. The maneuvers were interrupted, and weapons were loaded with live ammunition to shoot down the intruders, which managed to escape. Incidentally, the Finnish military, also said they were visited by drones shortly thereafter.

    This year's edition of the Swenex naval exercise, conducted in sea areas from Stockholm to the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, received unsolicited visitors, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported. The arrival of one or several remote-controlled aircraft of remote origin led to several maneuvers being cancelled or delayed until the airspace was clear.

    "We can confirm these observations. But what it was, and to what extent, is nothing we can go into," Swedish Armed Forces press secretary Jesper Tengroth told Dagens Nyheter.

    According to military reports, the units involved swapped their training blanks to live ammunition to shoot down the trespasser. Ultimately, however, they didn't open fire. Jesper Tengroth said that the Swedish Armed Forces always adapted to current threats.

    ​The drones observed over Swenex were equipped with position lights visible in the darkness, which led to speculation that a "major superpower" was behind the encroachment in order to openly demonstrate that it had the capacity to keep a close eye on the Swedish defense.

    Similar observations of drones were made twice earlier this year. In July, unidentified drones visited the BALTOPS naval exercise, when Swedish and American forces practiced on the island of Utö in the Stockholm archipelago.

    A second incident, hitherto unknown, occurred during an Air Force exercise in September. A drone reportedly flew over the Hagshult airbase in Småland County, which led to a temporary suspension of flights.

    Last week, a 33-year-old Polish citizen was arrested near Bålsta north of Stockholm during an anti-sabotage exercise by the Swedish Armed Forces. The man was reportedly taking photographs in a restricted area, near Björnen/Grizzly, one of Sweden's two larger underground facilities for the Air Defense tactical command.

    ​All in all, 2,000 troops, 20 warships, a number of surveillance aircraft, warplanes and helicopters participated in the Swenex 2016 exercise, which was held between November 14 and 23.

    Incidentally, shortly after the Swedish "drone confessions," the Finnish Armed Forces admitted to drone sightings during military exercises. In some cases the military has contacted drone operators to inspect possible footage recorded, Colonel Vesa Mäntylä told Finnish national broadcaster Yle.

    "The Finnish Defence Forces possess information about isolated sightings of drone activity in military zones and exercises, but those incidents have not resulted in the same kind of disruptions as in Sweden," Mäntylä commented to Yle.

    According to Mäntylä, most cases featured commercially available drones used for hobbies and amateur videos. However, he refrained from answering the direct question on whether or not foreign powers could be behind the surveillance, nevertheless ensuring that the cases presented no hazard for the Defense Forces.

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    surveillance, drone, military drills, Scandinavia, Finland, Sweden
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