Nordic Response: First conceptual test of joint Nordic air operations center

By Hilde-Gunn Bye, High North News - March 6, 2024
Militære ledere fra Norden og USA ved Bodin leir i Bodø. Fra venstre: Visesjef for USAs 2. flåte, kontreadmiral David Patchell; sjef for Second Marine Aircraft Wing i USAs marinekorps, generalmajor Scott F. Benedict; sjef for det norske luftforsvaret, generalmajor Rolf Folland; sjef for det svenske luftforsvaret, generalmajor Jonas Wikman; sjef for det finske luftforsvaret, generalmajor Juha-Pekka Keränen; samt stabssjef i det danske luftforsvaret, oberst Henrik Hegner Nielsen. (Foto: Fabian Helmersen / For
Military leaders from the Nordic region and the US at Camp Bodin. From the left: Vice Commander of USA’s 2nd Fleet, Rear Adm. David Patchell; 2nd MAW Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Scott F. Benedict; Chief of the Norwegian Air Force, Maj. Gen. Rolf Folland; Chief of the Swedish Air Force, Maj. Gen. Jonas Wikman; Chief of the Finnish Air Force, Maj. Gen. Juha-Pekka Keränen; as well as the Danish Chief of Staff, Col. Henrik Hegner Nielsen. (Photo: Fabian Helmersen / the Norwegian Armed Forces).

Bodø (High North News): Around 350 personnel from the Nordic countries, the UK, and the US are gathered at the joint Nordic air operations center established in Northern Norway for the Nordic Response military exercise.

On Monday, the air forces kicked off the military exercise Nordic Response, which expands across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

About 50 vessels, 20,000 soldiers and 110 fighter aircraft, transport aircraft, surveillance aircraft, tanker aircraft, and helicopters are participating in the large-scale winter exercise.

And all air forces and air operations are coordinated, synchronized, and planned from Bodø in Northern Norway.

During the exercise, a NATO air command for the Nordic region will be tested for the first timeand the much–discussed joint Nordic air operations center is temporarily placed at Camp Bodin, Bodø, in connection with the exercise.

“One of my most important tasks is coordinating the efforts of all the Nordic countries. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that we are not working as individual countries in the air operations center but are integrated into one department.

The statement is made by Brigadier Tron Strand in the Norwegian Air Force, who is chief of the joint Nordic air operations center (Joint Air Operations Center North).

Brigader Tron Strand
Brigadier Tron Strand in the Norwegian Air Force is Chief of the joint Nordic air operations center (Joint Air Operations Center North). Strand is usually the head of the joint air operations center in the Norwegian Air Force. (Photo: Hilde Bye).

Divided into two locations

High North News meets Strand at Camp Bodin in Bodø, where several of the operations rooms of the center now reside. Nordic Chiefs of Air Forces along with and US Navy and US Marine Corps military leaders are also present.

The air operation center’s organization consists of about 350 personnel which plan, lead, and coordinate the air activity during Nordic Response.

The center is divided into two locations in Northern Norway: Bodin camp in Bodø and the mountain facility in Sørreisa.

“The unit here at Camp Bodin is responsible for the planning, synchronizing, and coordinating air operations. About 170 personnel in Sørreisa are responsible for the execution of the air operations,” explains Brigadier Strand.

Joint Air Operations Center North

During Nordic Response 2024, the joint Nordic air operations center is tested for the first time.

The air operations centre will serve as the air component headquarters for participating air forces during the exercise.

The first initiative for integration of the Nordic air forces was made by the Norwegian side in December 2021.

The process was sped up after the attack on Ukraine and the Swedish and Finnish NATO applications.

In 2023, the air force chiefs in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland signed a letter of intent aiming to operate as one joint air force.

There have also been discussions about lifting the Nordic air operations center into an Arctic scale – to Arctic air operations center.

Generalmajor Rolf Folland, sjef for Luftforsvaret
During Nordic Response, Norway has the air command to support NATO’s newest operational command, JFC Norfolk, based in the US, explains Major General Rolf Folland, Chief of the Norwegian Air Force. (Photo: Hilde Bye)
Overflyvning i forbindelse med mediedag på Bodin leir
Flight over Bodin camp in Bodø. Pictured are four American F-35B, four Swedish Finnish F-18, and four Swedish JAS Gripen 39. (Photo: Fabian Helmersen / the Norwegian Armed Forces)

“An important milestone”

“Nordic Response is an important milestone for us in testing Nordic cooperation, particularly when it comes to air command and control,” says the Chief of the Norwegian Air Force, Major General Rolf Folland.

“We are planning integrated operations together through the joint Nordic air operations center – with high complexity and tempo,” he adds.

During Nordic Response, Folland also serves as the acting air component commander for NATO’s northern flank, on assignment from JFC Norfolk. This is the alliance’s newest operational command, under which Norway has been placed.

“The establishment of a joint air operations center with members from the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, British, and American air forces allow us to test the joint Nordic air command to conduct air operations as a unified air power, not as the Nordic region alone, but as part of NATO,” he adds.

Generalmajor Scott Benedict er sjef for Second Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW). 
Major General Scott Benedict is the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) Commanding General in the US Marine Corps. (Photo: Hilde Bye)

“An excellent opportunity”

“The Nordic air operations center is a fantastic idea,” says Major General Scott Benedict, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) Commanding General in the US Marine Corps, in an interview with HNN.

“The Nordic countries have initiated and pooled their resources for collective air defense, and this is also an excellent opportunity for us to partner alongside – and we are integrated in the center. We support it both in concept and in execution,” he adds.

The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing is based in North Carolina and participates with F-35 fighters, F/A-18 Hornets fighters, and KC-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, among others, during the winter exercise.

We are very excited to be here at Nordic Response. The training we can get here creates situations and environments that we cannot repeat anywhere else,” the Major General continues.

“The Norwegian defense are experts in operations in cold weather. The systems and support from the host nation, Norway, allow us to grow confidence in our capabilities. We cannot do this on our own; we do it with Norway and other partners. The longstanding relationship, facilities, and training areas here are all top of the line,” he concludes.

High North News is an independent newspaper published by the High North Center at Nord University in Bodø, Norway.