The Saab JAS39 Gripen remains central to Sweden's plans for a "fourth-generation"air force.

Andrzej Jeziorski/SATENAS

SWEDISH AIR FORCE chief Lt Gen Kent Harrskog says that the Saab JAS39 Gripen "-has actually given us a whole new air force". This new force, dubbed "Air Force 2000", is one which must be more compact and flexible and quicker to react than ever before.

Like most countries, Sweden is facing a shrinking defence budget - going down from SKr39 billion ($5.9 billion) this year to SKr33 billion in 1997 - and yet its defence forces must deal with completely new threats.

"At the same time that the risk of large-scale attacks diminishes, the threshold for employing military power has been lowered among some groups, so we have new and different conflicts," says Harrskog, stressing that fewer resources must now be used to tackle increasingly international tasks.

Since the end of the Cold War, Sweden has moved increasingly towards a more active role in European security. While still maintaining that it sees no need to join NATO, it is fostering closer ties with the alliance. The traditionally neutral country is involved in the NATO Partnership for Peace (PFP) programme, and is to participate in a total of eight NATO exercises this year and a further 12 in 1997. The country also has a battalion in the Nordic/Polish peacekeeping brigade in Bosnia.

The air force has already shrunk from 50 to 16 squadrons, and faces further cuts down to 13, or even 12, squadrons. The military command has therefore had to focus on quality and flexibility over the quantity of equipment it buys.

Harrskog is now setting his sights on a "fourth-generation" air force, which takes advantage of developments in engine technology and electronic miniaturisation to break the earlier trend towards ever larger, heavier and more expensive aircraft. The same technology allows the realisation of true multi-role capability in the JAS39, he says.

While fighters need manoeuvrability and endurance, ground-attack aircraft need large weapons loads, and must be stable with good low-level performance. "Combining these characteristics into one aircraft requires compromises-but the need for compromise has been minimised by advances in technology," says Harrskog.

In the early 1980s, when specifying the requirement for a replacement for the Saab JA37 Viggen, the air force demanded an aircraft, which was half the Viggen's weight, with the same weapons-load capability and similar or better flight performance.

"Rather like going to a vegetable market on a Saturday, it seems that a modern fighter aircraft is still priced by its weight," says air force procurement chief Maj Gen Staffan Nasstrom. "It's nice to see that we have reached the goals established back in 1982," he adds.

Designed to fulfil air-defence, attack and reconnaissance requirements, the Gripen offers not only multi-role, but also "swing-role" capability: the ability to have its role changed during a mission. This desirable flexibility introduces new challenges in pilot training, however.

In 1987, preparations began for the introduction of the Gripen to air force units, followed by the start of operational and tactical evaluation trials after the first delivery in 1993. Throughout development of the aircraft, the pilot's ability to learn to manage the Gripen in all three roles was carefully scrutinised, with extensive simulations carried out: design of the man-machine interface was critical to ensuring that the pilot was not overloaded. Emphasis was placed on the development of a training system where the pilot is coached from the outset in the multi-role capacity.

Ab initio pilots start with one year of basic flight training followed by one year of basic tactical training. The pilot then moves on, after about 240 flying hours, to begin training in the JAS39. This begins with one year of conversion and basic operational training at the F7 Gripen training and conversion wing at Satenas, followed by one year of local training at the pilot's home squadron. Pilots converting from Viggen or Draken operations spend six months at Satenas, before moving on to the year's training at their home squadron.


Training at F7 includes multi-mission trainer (MMT) and full-mission simulator (FMS) work. Both types of trainer can be used for individual study as well as instructor-guided lessons, with one MMT based at each JAS39 squadron, and two FMS at the recently opened Gripen Centre in Satenas. These two simulators can be networked together, and with the MMTs.

The air force has so far ordered 14 two-seat JAS39Bs as part of the second batch of 110 Gripens, which will start to be handed over in 1997. The two-seat variant has been in flight testing since the end of April. Delivery of the first batch of 30 single-seat JAS39As is to be completed by the end of this year, and a decision on a third procurement batch - predicted to total some 60 to 70 aircraft - is expected from the Swedish Government in its new defence plan, to be published on 13 December. The total requirement is expected to be for about 300 aircraft.

According to F7 chief Col Jan Andersson, the JAS39B will be used mainly for tactical training, where exercises can be pushed further in tactical complexity than in a simulator, because of the presence of an instructor. "It's also worth saying that the JAS39B is a fully operational aircraft," adds Andersson.

The first operational JAS39 squadron will be combat-ready in 1997. By 2002, the air force is to have eight squadrons, and hopes to have 12 JAS39 squadrons by 2006.

In the meantime, the air force is carrying out a mid-life update on its current mainstay, the JA37 Viggen. The first upgraded Viggen, capable of carrying the Hughes AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile, was flown in June, and Saab plans to modify most of the Swedish JA37 fleet before the turn of the century. The modification includes fitting an upgraded Ericsson PS-46A radar, weapons interface, stores-management computer and a new 1553B databus.

According to Nasstrom, it is yet to be confirmed how many of the current 125 JA37s will be upgraded. The figure is to be included in the next defence plan. The upgrade of operational aircraft is to begin in 1997.

The 82 AJS/AJ37 Viggens, designed mainly for the attack role, are to remain in service until 2003, when the Gripen will replace them.

Basic flight training will continue to be carried out on Saab 105 jet trainers - given the air force designation SK60 - until "well after 2010", says Saab. The manufacturer is to deliver a first batch of nine upgraded aircraft, designated SK60W and fitted with Williams-Rolls FJ44 turbofans, to the air force by the end of September. The engines, rated at 8.45kN (1,900lb)-thrust, replace the heavier, 7.3kN Turbom,ca/Snecma Aubisque turbofan.

The air force still has 134 SK60s in service, and was planning to upgrade 115. This number has been reduced to 96 for budgetary reasons. After the first batch, much of the upgrade work will be handed over to the Swedish air force flight academy, Wing F5, based at Ljungbyhed.

In a fourth-generation air force, command and information systems are used to link not only force commanders, but the aircraft to their support systems - such as mission planning and evaluation systems, and airborne radars. "Technology enables us to meet the demands for expanded co-operation between ground, sea and air forces," says Harrskog.

A crucial element of such an information network is to be provided for the Swedish air force by the Saab 340 airborne early-warning aircraft designated the S100B Argus by the military. Six aircraft have been ordered by the air force, to be delivered by April 1999.

The aircraft, based on the Saab 340 regional turboprop, carries a dorsally mounted Ericsson Erieye S-band active phased-array radar, which can be used to detect surface targets to the horizon, fighter-sized airborne targets to about 350km (190nm), and missiles to about 150km. The radar sends information to a ground-based command and control station via a secure datalink, and the data can then be relayed to combat aircraft.

The first S100B was handed over earlier this year, and is now under test and evaluation by the Swedish defence materiel administration.

A new command and control centre, with ten operator stations, and known as the STRIC, is now under development, together with a new secure voice and data link, called the TARAS. The first STRIC system has been handed over for testing to Wing F20 at Uppsala, and the system is expected to be in service by 2001. Once operational, the TARAS should provide the link between S100B aircraft, STRIC stations and combat units.

"Tactical data communications-is a key capability for flexible interactive mission control, co-ordinated missions, and optimised use of the swing-role capability," says Col Jan Jonsson, chief of the air force tactical centre. He stresses that a large investment in command, control, communication and information systems can increase the "apparent size" of an available force by cutting mission cycle times.


Jonsson states that the air force's highest priority - to deny an aggressor air superiority over Swedish territory - can only be achieved by effectively combining air-defence resources. At the same time, international co-operation with other air forces is becoming an ever-higher priority for Sweden.

He speculates that the USA may in future back away from its leading role in international peacekeeping operations. "Future peace-promoting operations in our region may for that reason consist of ad hoc coalitions of the willing and able nations," says Jonsson. The capability to operate with units from other air forces must therefore be improved, he says. "Interoperability in air operations will be developed by our participation in the PFP programme. The technical interoperability will increase by closer co-operation between European defence industries, and international marketing of Swedish defence products," Jonsson adds.

Source: Flight International