30 years later - The Sweds save the Americans

30 years after the mission happened, it’s been declassified.

It’s June 29, 1987. Lt Col. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, are currently at an undisclosed altitude, currently in a photography operation of the Soviet Union over the Baltic Sea doing the “Baltic Express”. Their mission, take pictures of Soviet airbases, ports ect. As the SR-71 Blackbird is in it’s operation their Blackbird experience an engine failure, quickly the spy plane descends to 25,000ft over the Swedish Air space. The jet is intercepted by two Saab 37 Viggen fighter jets. The jets weren’t there to escort it home, they were there to protect it from any enemy aircraft that tried to engage the blackbird. This was not known publically for more then 30 years until in 2017 when the US Government declassified this. The US Air Force presented four metals to the pilots of the Saab 37s who were involved that day.

"We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, one of the Swedish air force pilots. “Our fighter controller then asked me: ‘Are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest.’ I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”

image

Once the Swedish pilots intercepted the damaged SR-71, they decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it, according to the Air Medal citation. The pilots then accompanied the SR-71 beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered by American forces.

“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, one of the SR-71 pilots who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”

Lt Col Noll was not able to join the ceremony but was able record a message.
“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that fateful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions. We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident," Noll said in his message. "The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” Williams said during the ceremony. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”

image

15 Likes

Hey Mark? You know that news forum I run, right? I was considering adding an Aviation History Section and am interested if you want to write stories for that section for me. I want you to come help me out and write for that section for me! It would be awesome if you want to work with me! Offer is always on the table!

1 Like

Sure - I can send you some whenever I get something

Sure. I will publish one aviation history story per week.

Very interesting story and great to see allies supporting each other. Protecting each other is in everyone’s best interests as we all rely on each other in some way or another. Thanks for sharing!

1 Like

Welcome! Always fun to post cool stories!

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.