Within the framework of Baltops-2019, a large-scale NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea region, reconnaissance aircraft from Sweden and the US have conducted joint flights near Russia's Kaliningrad region.
Having departed from the Mildenhall air base in the UK, a US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft RC-135V was seen cruising along the southern border of the Kaliningrad region, while in Polish airspace, for about two and a half hours.
At the same time, a Swedish reconnaissance Gulfstream 4 aircraft, flew over the international waters of the Baltic Sea near the Kaliningrad region's maritime border.
Baltops is NATO's largest exercise series in the Baltic Sea. This year's edition, which started on 9 June in Germany's Baltic Sea port of Kiel, gathers 8,600 US and European troops from 18 nations.
The 47th Baltops drill involves maritime, air and ground forces with about 50 ships and submarines and 40 aircraft and will run through 21 June. The training routine includes finding and destroying sea mines and submarines, the use of air defence and landing troops onshore as well as defence against attack from enemy navy vessels.
This year’s Baltops is run by the US Navy’s 2nd Fleet command in Norfolk, Virginia and marks the command’s first major engagement in Europe. The 2nd Fleet command was only re-established last year in response to Russia’s “growing naval activity” in the Atlantic.
Despite being formally non-aligned, Sweden has recently upped its participation in NATO drills, and remains an active contributor. To this year's edition of Baltops, it is sending two corvettes (Nyköping K34 and Karlstad K35) and a submarine.
#Sweden is sending three warships to this year's #NATO #BALTOPS exercises, which kick off Sunday 9 June. Two #Visby-class corvettes, #NYKOPING K34 and #KARLSTAD K35, along with a submarine, are taking part. This US DoD video covers the corvettes. pic.twitter.com/4htBuuZTeX— Chris Cavas (@CavasShips) 8 июня 2019 г.
Russia used to participate in the drill before, but has not been invited since 2014, when the alliance slammed Crimea's re-unification with Russia as an “occupation” and military co-operation was suspended.
This year, Russia's Baltic Fleet will hold a number of tactical manoeuvrers of its own. They will feature corvettes, small missile ships and an anti-submarine ship and involve anti-submarine support as well as missile, torpedo and artillery firings, Captain 1st Rank of the Baltic Fleet Roman Martov said.