Russian bombers armed with nuclear warheads reportedly entered European Union air space earlier this month, before being intercepted by fighter jets.
Swedish media reports four of Vladimir Putin’s warplanes swooped in over the Baltic towards the island of Gotland, in the Baltic Sea.
TV4, Expressen and Aftonbladet all report the formation included two Sukhoi Su-24 bombers and two Sukhoi SU-27 fighters.
The bombers – as seen in the photo below with the single stabiliser tails – were the ones armed with nukes, The Sun reports.
The warplanes took off from a Russian airbase in the enclave of Kaliningrad on March 2. Sweden confirmed the intrusion into its air space had occurred earlier this month, but the revelation that Russia’s bombers were armed with nukes has only emerged now.
Sweden responded to the intrusion by deploying two JAS-39 Gripen jets to intercept them. The nation’s military officials concluded the bombers were armed with nuclear warheads after examining images of them.
“We assess it as a conscious action. Which is very serious, especially as Russia is a warring country,” Air Force Chief Carl-Johan Edstrom said.
“I cannot rule out incorrect navigation, but everything indicates that it was a deliberate act. They violated Sweden’s borders.”
The incident occurred a day after Putin suggested Sweden and Finland could face military action from Russia if they joined NATO.
It also came just after Sweden pledged to send military aid, including 5000 antitank weapons, to Ukraine.
It was the first time since 1939 that Sweden had sent weapons to any country at war.
SU-24s are supersonic two-seater attack aircraft, which have been in service since before the fall of the Soviet Union. They have been used by both sides in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Russia is understood to have at least 500 nuclear weapons designated for use by their bombers, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Sweden believes the act was deliberate.
At the time of the incursion, defence minister Peter Hultqvist said: “The Russian violation of Swedish airspace is of course completely unacceptable.
“It will lead to a firm diplomatic response from Sweden. Swedish sovereignty and territory must always be respected.”
The military said it was taking the incident “very seriously” and branded the incursion “unprofessional and irresponsible”.
Jörgen Elfving, a former lieutenant colonel, told Aftonbladet that the incident raised questions over whether Sweden should be in NATO.
He said: “If you now have a weapon system that can carry nuclear weapons and do so, it is not an everyday event.
“Handling nuclear weapons is not done by anyone, it is not a routine event.”
The former officer said such an incident has not happened since the Cold War.
Russian bombers have previously been reported to have been carrying nuclear weapons while on exercises near Western nations.
It was reported in 2015 that on at least two occasions Putin’s planes had been carrying nukes near the United Kingdom.
SU-24 is a supersonic two-seater bomber that has been in service since before the fall of the Soviet Union. Both sides have used them in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
On the contrary, Saab Gripen is a modern state-of-the-art 4.5 generation fighter jet armed with advanced Meteor beyond visual range missiles, IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missiles and long-range cruise missiles capable of destroying any invading forces.
Sweden designed and built Gripen fighter jet to shoot down Russia’s Su-35 first met its adversary in March 2022. Although Gripen enforced air patrolling over Gotland island, Gripen didn’t engage missiles in midair.
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