The Swedish government has outlined its defence priorities for the period to 2020, with new measures to include increasing the number of fully operational Saab Gripen squadrons and potentially ordering a further 10 E-model examples.
Published on 24 April, the new framework document sets a target to have all six current Gripen units attain full operational status. At the moment two of the squadrons – based with the F7 wing at Satenas – are focused on delivering pilot training services only.
Speaking at the F17 wing’s forward operating base on Gotland on 28 April, Swedish air force chief of staff Marcus Björkgren said the service has begun assessing the implications of the decision, which affects its fleet of almost 100 Gripen C/Ds.
“We will have to focus a little extra to get those [training] squadrons to a real operational level,” he says. The air force is likely to move to a position where all units flying the Gripen will be capable of meeting air defence and defensive counter-air requirements, with some also being trained to conduct other missions.
The squadron readiness initiative is being adopted following an escalation in quick reaction alert activities in Swedish airspace, in response to the increase in Russian air force flights over the Baltic Sea since 2013.
Stockholm’s overall defence bill is valued at a proposed additional SKr10.2 billion ($1.2 billion) for the period from 2016 to 2020.
The government says there is also an opening to potentially boost the air force’s Gripen E fleet by a further 10 aircraft – to 70 – although the current five-year plan does not including funding for such an expanded acquisition. Deliveries under its existing 60-unit order will commence during 2019, with the new-generation type expected to achieve initial operating capability in 2023 and the fleet to be fully operational three years later.
Decisions regarding a successor to the Swedish air force’s Saab 105 trainers and remaining Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical transports are expected from 2021. The service currently has only six Hercules in active use, and Björkgren says this could be reduced to four in future. Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database records its oldest operational example – a KC-130H tanker – as having been built in 1969.