The slow progress in the air campaign against Denmark, and a growing need to begin air attacks against southern Norway and RAF bases in Scotland was forcing the Soviets to examine Sweden. The Scandinavian nation had remained neutral in the conflict thus far, adhering to its historic position of not involving itself in European conflicts. This did not seem likely to change, which was something of a blessing and a curse to Soviet plans and intentions.
Sweden’s air force and navy were vigilantly guarding the air and sea space of their homeland. Naval units patrolled the territorial waters in force, and Swedish fighters were dispersed to a number of civilian airfields across the country. So far in the conflict, no NATO or Warsaw Pact aircraft or ships had violated Swedish airspace or waters, though there had been a handful of close encounters.
The Soviet Union did not want war with Sweden. Nor did it want to take large scale action that might provoke Sweden to shed its neutrality and side with NATO. However, the airspace over southern Sweden held great potential value. Having use of it would improve the range and survivability of aircraft flying missions against Denmark, and southern Norway. It would also open new ingress and egress routes for attacks, and allow mass strikes to be staged from airbases in eastern Poland, and the Baltic SSRs.
To determine the feasibility of this, Frontal Aviation needed to gauge the response times, and strength of the Swedish Air Force. In mid-afternoon on D+2, a pair of unarmed MiG-25 Foxbats took off from Lielvarde Air Base in Estonia. Simultaneously, another pair of Foxbats rose from an airfield in Poland. The northern pair commenced a high altitude, high speed run towards the Swedish island of Gotland. They made no attempt to avoid detection from Swedish radar sites. Swedish fighters were scrambled to intercept, but the MiGs turned back less than ten miles from Gotland and returned to their base in Latvia.
The southern pair approached the Swedish coast at Mach 3, making a direct approach to Karlskrona. The fact that the coastal city was home to a major naval base triggered a massive response. Across the south of Sweden, Viggens rose to intercept, as air defense sites went to maximum alert. Here, the Foxbats did intentionally enter Swedish airspace, west of Karlskrona. The Soviet fighters penetrated seventy miles inland, before turning around and heading back across the Baltic at Mach 3 with a dozen Swedish fighters in pursuit, but unable to catch up.
The flights caused outrage, and concern in Stockholm. Before the MiGs even landed, the Swedish ambassador in Moscow was on his way to the foreign ministry to lodge a formal complaint. In language that was decidedly undiplomatic, he warned the Soviet foreign minister that any future incursion of Swedish airspace would bring an immediate military response. Orders preventing future flights from approaching or entering Swedish airspace were soon transmitted from Moscow to Frontal Aviation.
For the moment, Soviet interest in Sweden was on the shelf.
The situation at sea remained very much a waiting game. The daylight hours of D+2 were quiet across the cold Baltic. NATO and Warsaw Pact submarines were active beneath the waves though. West German diesel subs monitored the waters around East German and Polish ports, watching for indications of an amphibious force getting underway. A handful of Soviet subs were staked out in close proximity to the Danish mine belts, attempting to determine where the safe passage lanes for NATO warships were located. Once night fell, COMNAVBALTAP moved a group of West German and Danish fast attack craft into the waters east of Bornholm as a mobile blocking force to hedge against a WP sortie. He and his staff continued to believe a combined Warsaw Pact amphibious assault against Denmark was in the cards. When it would occur remained a mystery. And why was it taking so long for them to move?
The reason, plain and simple, was that the Warsaw Pact air forces had so far failed to establish air superiority over Denmark. Though, with NATO air reinforcements now beginning to arrive in Denmark, and Moscow growing more impatient by the hour, Western TVD was taking a close look at the possibility of launching the amphibious and airborne assaults now, before enough NATO fighters arrived to assure alliance air superiority over Denmark for the indefinite future.