Red Flag to test Swedes

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The Swedish air force is to conduct its first major overseas deployment of the Saab JAS39C/D Gripen fighter in early July, with seven of its aircraft to be flown to the USA to participate in the inaugural Red Flag Alaska exercise.

Five single-seat Gripen Cs and two two-seat Ds will depart Ronneby airbase in Sweden on 13 July for an approximately 5,500nm (10,200km) outbound deployment to be conducted without in-flight refuelling and divided into eight legs. To be accompanied by two Lockheed Martin C-130H transports, the aircraft and 12 pilots are scheduled to arrive at Eilson AFB, Alaska on 17 July, one week before the start of Red Flag flying activities, which will conclude on 4 August.

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Between four and six of the aircraft will conduct two missions a day during the exercise, conducting tasks such as air intercept, daylight ground attack and offensive air operations, says Swedish Red Flag detachment commander Lt Col Ken Lindberg. “Gripen is going to be seen in every role,” including leading composite air packages with other participating nations, he says. Previously referred to as exercise “Cooperative Cope Thunder”, the manoeuvres are expected to involve 47 fighters and six support aircraft from the US Air Force and coalition countries.

To prepare for the Red Flag detachment, six Gripen C/Ds participated in a two-week exercise at Sweden’s Vidsel test range in early June, logging 175 flight hours and dropping six Paveway laser-guided bombs using Litening III targeting pods and ground-based forward air controllers. The exercise was also used to prove recent upgrades performed by the air force’s operational test and evaluation unit at Malmen airbase, including software and communications modifications and the integration of a podded rangeless debriefing system.