The process to replace the Swedish air force’s ageing trainer fleet is likely to take a step forward this summer with the expected issue of a request for information for a replacement for the 50-year-old Sk.60 (Saab 105). In the interim, the service is implementing a life extension programme to keep the twinjet trainer in service until 2024-2025. Responding to a question at the Swedish Air Force Fan Club meeting in Paris on 18 June, Maj Gen Mats Helgesson, the air force's chief of staff said his perfect trainer would be “very cheap and fast”.
More seriously, he said the solution could be either a jet or a turboprop, but the platform was less important than the whole training system. "We only plan to operate single-seat Gripens, so the entire system, including simulators and computer-based training, must lead a pilot directly to a Gripen cockpit," said Helgesson. "Whatever is chosen, it must conform with Sweden's training philosophy. We have decided we are going to train our own pilots, we are not going to train them in another country."
Helgesson added that Russian air activity in the Baltic had stabilised compared to 2014-2015 but was still well above 2011 levels. As part of Sweden’s response to the changed strategic environment, the air force was negotiating to increase the planned Gripen force from 60 to 80 aircraft, allowing for an average of 70 operational aircraft. Road base operations for both Gripens and C-130s were being practised by squadrons on a monthly basis, as well as at major exercises such as the upcoming Aurora 2017 in September. “We lost our focus on the dispersed-base system and we need to take that back,” says Helgesson.