LIBYA: Sweden sends Gripens to join Unified Protector

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Sweden deployed eight of its Saab Gripen fighters to Sigonella air base in Sicily over the weekend to join the expanding number of nations that have contributed to the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector.

A lead package of three JAS 39 Gripen C single-seat fighters left Ronneby air base in Sweden on 2 April and arrived in Sigonella later the same day after making a refuelling stop in Hungary. The aircraft are drawn from the air force's F17 wing. Video footage of their departure shows one carrying a Rafael Litening targeting/reconnaissance pod (below).

 
© Swedish armed forces

The remaining five Gripens arrived at Sigonella the following day, with the Swedish air force expecting to declare its aircraft operationally ready on 6 April.

Sweden's contribution at Sigonella follows that of allied nations Denmark, Italy, Spain and the USA. Other participants in the United Protector campaign to prevent Libyan air force aircraft from attacking civilians are Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the UK.

The Swedish parliament on 29 March gave its approval for an air force commitment lasting up to three months to support enforcement of the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya.

Up to 130 Swedish personnel will be involved, including 10 Gripen pilots. The total includes around 110 people who had been assigned to an expeditionary air wing that was on standby to support any operation involving the Nordic Battle Group.

The Swedish air force deployment also involves one Lockheed Martin KC-130H tanker and a reconnaissance aircraft.