Development of the Saab/BAE Systems JAS39 for the Swedish air force has continued in parallel with the definition of the export Gripen for overseas customers. The Swedish air force's Batch 3 fighters will have many of the export aircraft capabilities, such as in-flight refuelling, colour cockpit displays and flight instrumentation in imperial units.


Head of the Swedish air force Maj Gen Mats Nilsson says "many of these major changes are to allow us to take part in international operations." Sweden is to commit a JAS39 squadron for fighter and reconnaissance missions by 2004.

"Batch 3 is a major milestone but we're also looking beyond that at active electronically scanned radar, infrared search and track, we're planning today to develop the aircraft for 2010 and beyond," adds Nilsson. "We're looking at the JAS39D [a developed two seater] and how to used that for a scenario commander, for SEAD [suppression of enemy air defences], as strike package leader," he says.

Nilsson says Sweden will upgrade earlier JAS39s "where it makes sense". The Batch 2 aircraft will not receive the retractable in-flight refuelling probe, as that requires a major rebuild. Radar and avionics changes will be made, as it is more efficient to operate aircraft to a common standard. "We have to consider the resources" - the final upgrade will be decided after Batch 3 tactics development is underway "then we can see what we really want".

Nilsson says the air force is leading Sweden's move into Net Centric warfare: "There is a lot to do at all levels. We are talking about the creation of joint operations centres. We would like two, one which is working and one which is for constant evolution and development as we can't afford to stand still."

The Swedish air force has operated datalink-equipped fighters since the 1960s, but NetDefence, says Nilsson, raises many questions. "How do we make the JAS39 interoperable? How do we make the JAS39 datalink work with the [NATO-standard] Link 16?"

The datalink will not need upgrading in the near term but changes will be needed later. Nilsson says "we're constantly looking for technical solutions" including means to increase bandwidth, and transmission speeds while improving data compression techniques.

Sweden's decision to participate in future coalition operations means the air force has considered laser designator pods and laser-guided bombs (LGBs), says Nilsson. But, he continues, "we have to be pragmatic, what do we need for peace support and for national defence? We do not have the resources for two air forces." The Swedish Government wishes to offer fighter and reconnaissance aircraft, missions "which don't stress the need for LGBs", notes Nilsson. "There are also lots of resources in Europe to do this job and it is stupid to duplicate. It is a question of blending in with the European Defence Initiative and NATO." SEAD is a possible JAS39D role and Europe has few SEAD resources. "We have not asked the international community if that's what they want, but we are looking at it and considering the national defence need. If Sweden needs SEAD then perhaps we can offer it to our partners. We are considering a vast number of scenarios, what we need and the fallout."

He does not foresee the introduction of more weapons and capabilities altering Sweden's multirole pilot policy. The development team, for instance, "did a lot of work to create common firing symbology for the gun close-in or the Saab RBS15 anti-ship missile at long-range." He adds: "I want to see all eight squadrons do all the missions." The key to the success of Sweden and the Gripen in international and national operations is to have the maximum flexibility, Nilsson concludes.

Source: Flight International