In announcing new military aid, Sweden also confirmed that no Gripen combat aircraft will be transferred before its accession to the Atlantic Alliance. A report on the effects of a possible delivery must also be published by the Swedish Armed Forces within a month.
On October 6, Pål Jonson, Swedish Defense Minister, announced new military aid to Ukraine. In the amount of $199.8 million, it includes:
- 155 mm shells
- spare parts for tanks
- satellite communications equipment
- infantry equipment
During the announcement, he spoke about two very important points about the possibility of sending Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine:
“The government also entrusted a mission to the Swedish Armed Forces to analyze and report on the conditions for strengthening Ukraine through (transfer) JAS 39 Gripen. Support in the form of JAS 39 Gripen would be conditional on Sweden joining NATO.“
According to an article from Sveriges Radio, the mission given to the Swedish Armed Forces is to enable the drafting of an analysis report on the impact that the delivery of Gripen combat aircraft to Ukraine will have on Swedish military capabilities. Still according to Sveriges Radio, the Swedish government seems to be focusing the delivery of a device against the rapid production of a new device, in order not to create a capacity hole. Reuters specifies that this report will be completed in one month, and sent to the government by November 6, 2023 at the latest.
Ukraine is to receive F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets but also hopes to have Swedish Gripen aircraft. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also visited Sweden on August 19, 2023 to obtain more aid from the Swedes. He notably announced:
“Today we discussed in detail the future steps regarding the possibility of opening the topic regarding the reception of Swedish Gripen.” He also mentioned that Ukrainian pilots had already started training on the planes (Reuters).
This condition could provide two advantages for Sweden. However, in view of recent political agreements, only one advantage seems to be relevant:
- Being able to have more political support to join the Atlantic Alliance as quickly as possible. However, this advantage no longer seems very useful since last July. Indeed, since the application for membership, only Turkey and Hungary have been blocked on the subject. However, during the NATO summit in Vilnius last July, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, claimed to have found common ground with a view to authorizing this membership (Reuters). Following this announcement, Hungarian officials also confirmed their support for this accession. So it would only be a matter of time!
- Such a delivery for a country “without a defense alliance” is risky. Just go back to the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, from the point of view of Sweden (and Finland), the fact of not being part of a military alliance no longer makes it possible to avoid a possible invasion, hence this desire to want to return to the Atlantic Alliance. Note that, from the February 25Russia had openly threatened these two countries, through a statement by the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry: “Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO may have harmful consequences and face multiple political consequences. (…)”
The Gripen in Ukraine: what impacts?
Although it will not at all be the new Gripen E (image below), the arrival of Gripen C/D (or even the F-16) will still represent an advantage for the Ukrainian Air Force: these Aircraft are modern or modernized unlike aircraft of Soviet origin, slightly modernized by the Ukrainian aviation industry. Like the F-16, the Gripen is developed and built to NATO standards and can therefore carry a wide variety of air-to-air, air-to-ground or even air-to-sea munitions whose quality and range find no equivalent in the Ukrainian arsenal before the start of this invasion. For example, the Gripen can carry BVR (beyond the horizon) missiles, such as the Meteor missile (range greater than 100 kilometers, very large no escape zone, etc.). The advantage is twofold: on the one hand, the influx of ammunition for these planes is very large, ensuring an almost constant influx and on the other, to use these weapons to 100% of their potential, without having to tinker with equipment. pods allowing the carriage of NATO munitions on Soviet planes. We must also not forget the possibility of carrying specialized pods depending on the missions.
On the other hand, the Gripen differs from the F-16 (but also from the Eurofighter, F-18, F-35 and Rafale) by an equivalent or cheaper cost per flight hour (according to Jane’s, quoted by Saab), confirming an economic advantage with regard to:
- fuel use,
- pre-flight preparation,
- personnel costs
This aircraft is also capable of operating in extremely cold environments or even taking off over fairly short distances for an aircraft of this size.