A Swedish Air Force JAS 39C Gripen fighter at Linköping-Malmen (Image © Marcel Burger)

“Czechs to train future international Gripen pilots”

The Czech Air Force’s extensive knowledge and expertise with the Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen might make the Central European country the breeding ground for future pilots of the SAAB-made multirole fighter, even those who will later serve in the Swedish Air Force. This extraordinary combat pilot training option is seriously looked at by the Swedish authorities, just as the Gripen is the star of the show at Čáslav Airbase, where Lion Effort 2015 kicked off on Monday 11 May 2015.

Sources within the Swedish defence forces reportedly have expressed their concern about the cash stricken Flygvapnet, where less-then-adequate flight training hours have contributed to several minor incidents including at least two near-misses over the course of a year. The story broke to the general public first through the Swedish national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

The pressure on the Swedish Air Force has grown significantly the last decade. Not only has the Flygvapnet lost many aircraft in the economic downsizing, the air weapon was and is highly involved in getting other air forces going with their leased or purchased Gripen jets. Moreover, the military activity of Russia is a big cause for concern for Stockholm, with the Russian Air and Naval Air Forces sometimes having a seamlessly free passage inside the Swedish economic zone or even its airspace.

The first two Brazilian Gripen pilots after their first solo flights from Såtenäs, in January 2015 (Image © Anders Hjärp)
The first two Brazilian Gripen pilots after their first solo flights from Såtenäs, in January 2015 (Image © Anders Hjärp)

One of the possible scenarios for the future basic flight training of even the Swedish Defence Forces is to move the Gripen Training Centre from Såtenäs in Sweden to Čáslav in the Czech Republic. That will mean that the Flygvapnet’s aspirant fighter jocks move south after getting their wings on the Saab SK60 advanced jet trainer at Linköping. It might mean that the Flygvapnet needs to move only four of its current 88 operational Gripen jets to the Czech Republic, but it will free resources for advanced combat flight training on the vast ranges near Vidsel Airbase in the north – and on the given task to defend the airspace of the nation and support the Swedish ground and naval forces.

Not so strange
Outsourcing of flight training is not so strange to the Swedish Defence Forces. Future helicopter pilots f.e. are send to Bückeburg to fly the Eurocopter EC135 with the the German Army’s School of Army Aviation (Heeresfliegerwaffenschule). Moreover, the Czech have by now very much experience with the jet, as Airheadsfly.com learned during a visit to Čáslav last year. The Czech are righteously proud of it.

Slovakia / Brazil
Choosing the Czech Republic will be even more logic if neighbouring Slovakia moves on with the planned future lease of 8 to 14 Gripen jets. Other basic flight training can be done in Brazil, once that air force has enough instructor pilots for the at least 36 Gripen E/F it is buying/co-producing and the C/D models the Latin American nation is leasing from Sweden until the new jets arrive.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A Swedish Air Force JAS 39C Gripen fighter at Linköping-Malmen (Image © Marcel Burger)

A typical Swedish "incident readiness" flight of two JAS 39 Gripen fighters - here on an unarmed training mission in 1998 - fly by the city of Visby, the main town on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. (Image © Flygvapnet)
A typical Swedish “incident readiness” flight of two JAS 39 Gripen fighters – here on an unarmed training mission in 1998 – fly by the city of Visby, the main town on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Core task of the Swedish Air Force Gripen aircraft (Image © Flygvapnet)