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Article from Ministry of Defence

Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist to visit international air exercise in Luleå

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On 7–18 June 2021, Denmark, Finland and Norway and Sweden, together with the United States, will host the recurring international air exercise Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021 (ACE 21). It will be the fifth year the exercise is held within the framework of Nordic cooperation. Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist will visit the exercise in Luleå on 15 June.

  • Peter Hultqvist and Micael Bydén standing outside in front of an airplane.

    Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist and Supreme Commander Micael Bydén.

    Photo: Jesper Sundström/Swedish Armed Forces

  • Micael Bydén and Peter Hultqvist standing outside talking to another person.

    Supreme Commander Micael Bydén and minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist.

    Photo: Jesper Sundström/Swedish Armed Forces

  • Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE)  21 takes place in Luleå.

    Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) 21 takes place in Luleå.

    Photo: Jesper Sundström/Swedish Armed Forces

  • Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE)  21 takes place in Luleå.

    Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) 21 takes place in Luleå.

    Photo: Jesper Sundström/ Swedish Armed Forces

The aim of ACE 21 is to strengthen the interoperability and operational capabilities of the participating countries’ air forces. The combined Nordic air space offers unique training opportunities for realistic air combat training in a vast flying area, containing several air bases and a firing range.

“Defence cooperation between the Nordic countries strengthens our joint military capabilities and contributes to stability in our part of Europe. The Nordic countries share basic values and security interests. We cooperate in several formats, both bilaterally and multilaterally,” says Mr Hultqvist.

The ACE exercises are held every other year and ACE 21 is a further development of previous exercises. During ACE 19, the exercise reached ‘flag level’ for the first time, which is the highest level of complexity and difficulty that an international air exercise can offer. During ACE 21, the goal is to again reach ‘flag level’. ACE 21 will be conducted from four air bases in three countries: Norrbotten Wing in Luleå, Sweden, Bodö Air Base and Örland Air Base in Norway, and Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi, Finland.

“ACE 21 is Europe’s largest air exercise held at ‘flag level’ and is a concrete example of Nordic-transatlantic cooperation in the defence area,” says Mr Hultqvist.

Between 7–18 June, two air exercises will be conducted each weekday. In the mornings, flights will take place in three exercise areas – one in Norway, one in Sweden and one in Finland. In the afternoons, all nations will fly in the unique ACE 21 exercise area in Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Fact box

Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) is an air exercise held every other year by Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, with crucial support from the United States. In 2017, the air force chiefs of the four Nordic countries, together with the Commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, signed a joint Letter of Intent to elevate the ACE air exercise to a ‘flag exercise’. This Letter of Intent was supplemented earlier this year when the defence ministers of the four Nordic countries, together with the Acting Secretary of the US Air Force, expressed their shared will to maintain ACE as a flag exercise.

Responsibility for the exercise rotates and this year’s exercise is under Norwegian command. The exercise is based on the Cross Border Training (CBT) concept and was first conducted in 2013. The exercise scenario is an international peace support crisis management operation under a UN mandate. This year, due to the pandemic, the number of participating aircraft has been reduced to approximately 70, including tanker aircraft and control aircraft from eight different countries. Approximately 3 000 people will participate in the exercise.