A pair U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers kicked off a historic deployment this week, touching down in Sweden on June 19.
“This is the first time U.S. bombers have landed in Sweden,” a spokesperson for U.S. Air Forces in Europe told Air & Space Forces Magazine.
The deployment marks yet another sign of strengthened ties between the U.S. and the Nordic nation—even as its bid to join NATO is still in question.
The two B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, landed at Luleå Kallax Airbase, Sweden. The aircraft are in Europe as part of a four-plane Bomber Task Force rotation based out of RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
The U.S. and Sweden have grown increasingly close since the Scandinavian nation applied to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Finland joined NATO as its 31st member in April, and U.S. officials are holding out hope that Turkey will drop its opposition so Sweden can soon become the 32nd member at an upcoming summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania.
In the meantime, the U.S. is making it clear that Sweden’s status as a close ally is strong.
“U.S. forces have conducted exercises and training in the Arctic region, but the landing fortifies not only the friendship between the U.S. and Sweden, but the collective defense of Europe,” a U.S. Air Forces in Europe release stated.
Sweden’s defense minister and prime minister said recently Sweden is willing to host NATO troops even before it becomes a member of the alliance.
“The more we can integrate forces and equipment to maneuver across Europe, the more ready we are to face security challenges, now and in the future,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Bryony Terrell, U.S. European Command’s deputy director for strategic plans and policy.
The bombers were accompanied by personnel flown in a C-130, according to the USAFE spokesperson. It was unclear how long the deployment to Sweden will last.
“The purpose is to practice the defense of Sweden, on and over Swedish territory,” the Swedish Armed Forces said in a release on the B-1 deployment.
During a press briefing on June 20, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh did not say whether the U.S. planned to pick up the pace of deployments while Sweden waits to join NATO but highlighted the close partnership between the two countries.
“Sweden has an extremely capable military, and for many years, the U.S. and Sweden and NATO countries have trained side by side together,” Singh said.
Singh said that the relationship would only grow stronger when—not if—Sweden joined NATO.
“We look forward to forging an even deeper relationship with Sweden when they officially become the 32nd member of NATO,” she said.