US SOF Participate in Aurora 2017 Exercise in Sweden

The Aurora 2017 exercise scenario was a multi-national response to an attack from the east on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.
The Aurora 2017 exercise scenario was a multi-national response to an attack from the east on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

U.S. SOF participated in Aurora 2017 – a multi-nation exercise held in Sweden with conventional and special operations forces. The exercise took place in September 2017 with a focus on the defense of Gotland – an island in the Baltic Sea.

Russia, . . . of Course. The Swedes are extremely concerned with Russia – it’s giant neighbor located to the east. Russia’s aggressive moves in Georgia, Crimea, and the Ukraine has put eastern and northern European nations on edge. In 2014 Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsular of Crimea. It has since supported rebels in eastern Ukraine. Many of the nations in the Baltic Sea region wonder if they are the next target. NATO countries have been paying a lot of attention to Russia and the defense of northern and eastern Europe. Sweden has recently increased its defense budget and has reintroduced conscription into the armed forces effective January 2018.

Exercise Objectives and Participants. The Swedish exercise was designed to improve, test and show the capabilities of the Swedish Armed Forces. Over 20,000 members of the Swedish military participated as well as over 1,300 U.S. service members from the Army, Marines, and Navy. [1] Other nations in the region (some feeling threatened by Russia – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Finland) provided units to the exercise. In addition, Denmark, France, and Germany sent military personnel. U.S. special operations force units and aircraft from Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) participated. [2]

Scenario. The exercise simulated an attack from the east on Gotland. The island is the closest Swedish territory to Kaliningrad – a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea. In addition, Gotland is very close to Russia proper – separated by the Baltic Sea and the small Baltic States. Despite numerous NATO exercises in the region and forward positioning of small expeditionary forces in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia (as well as Poland) the ability to stop a Russian large Russian attack is unlikely. (UW by NATO SOF forces could be an option). The Swedes are observing a deteriorating security environment in northern Europe with an increase in Russian assertiveness. [3]

Swedish Video. The Swedish Armed Forces (Forsvarsmakten) has produced a four-minute long video on the growing U.S. and Swedish SOF partnership and Exercise Aurora 2017. The commander of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), MG Mark Schwartz, is interviewed in the video. The video is posted on SOCEUR’s site.

NATO Video. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization published its video about Exercise Aurora 17.


[1] For a listing of U.S. units participating in Aurora 2017 see a press release by U.S. European Command (EUCOM), September 19, 2017.

[2] See a statement by the Swedish government on the purpose of the Aurora 2017 exercise (September 13, 2017).

[3] The Swedish Armed Forces (Forsvarsmakten) has a website with detailed information about Aurora 2017. Some photos, news reports, and a very slick video.

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