Bell Helicopter on Wednesday 18 May announced it delivered the last of seven Swedish National Police’s Bell 429 helicopters. The type has now entered service in the Scandinavian country and is being used for law enforcement and search and rescue, including mountain rescue, across Sweden.
The seven choppers were ordered in July 2014. Polisflyget, the aviation department of the Rikskriminalpolisen (National Police), also operates six Eurocopter EC135 P2+ from Boden in the far north (1), Göteborg-Säve City Airport (1), Stockholm-Arlanda IAP (2), Malmö-Sturup IAP (1) and Åre-Östersund Airport (1). The police helicopter unit has about 60 personnel.
“This is now the largest Bell 429 fleet in operation in the European Union,” said Jakub Hoda, Bell Helicopter Managing Director for Europe and Russia. “Customers in Europe have shown great interest in the Bell 429 for law enforcement and search and rescue operations.
Over a quarter of the Bell 429s in service across Europe today are flying parapublic missions, demonstrating the superior performance of the Bell 429.
The Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) is putting new life into a war-time strategy developed during the Cold War: fighter jet operations from road strips. There is a difference: the armed forces have got to do the same job with less personnel.
Welcome to Vidsel Airbase in the Swedish far north. This is the Edwards, or Boscombe Down, of Sweden – a place for testing air weapons and the heart of many (inter)national military combat exercises when it comes to air operations.
Vidsel does have a main runway, but serviced by a network of taxiways are three additional short and less-wide runways ideal for testing road strip operations without having to close down any real riksväg (regional main roads).
And that is exactly what Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS 39C Gripen no. 229 was doing the last couple of days. At the Gripen’s F21 Wing at Luleå-Kallax Airbase 60 miles (97 km) east they call it “a new concept”, but it is actually just perfecting an old plan to the current state of the military. Meaning, things have to be done with less people and less equipment since Sweden abolished obligatory military service to all young men on 1 July 2010 and has suffered from severe budget restrains.
The redefined concept will see the Gripen serviced, (re)armed and (re)fueled by 6 personnel on a forward operating location, using only two modified vans with equipment per jet plus a fuel truck travelling between several aircraft and a fuel depot.
Gripen combat fleet survivability
Initially four conscripts would be enough to maintain the first Gripen A version, where many systems are easily exchangeable modules. But some sort of grouping with more personnel and vehicles was still the starting point. The new concept makes it possible to have a unit of one fighter jet, a pilot and six aircraft technicians can operate entirely on its own. Aircraft dispersed over a larger area increases the survivability of the combat fleet in times of war, since they will be complicated to hit by the enemy.
Europe’s largest test range
Sweden’s military future when it comes to the air weapon is very much probed near Vidsel, where the test range close by is Europe’s largest overland. During the past half a century everything from parachutes to ATC systems and space vehicles have been tried there. NATO jets are regularly using the 6,210 square miles (10,000 km2) of restricted airspace and 2,500 square miles (3,300 km2) of restricted ground space as well.
With recent tests of the Gripen at a Forward Operating Location at Vidsel being very positive F21 Wing is now eager to have additional try-outs on all its three main bases in the north of Sweden: Luleå-Kallax (homebase), Vidsel and Jokkmokk. The latter, on the edge of the Polar Circle, has not only one main runway but three shorter and smaller runways on base plus three road strips just outside the base perimeter. The latter three are only to be used in wartime though, and will not be put to the test at the moment.
The new concept will likely be “exported” to the other two Gripen units of the Swedish Air Force as well: F17 Wing at Ronneby near Sweden’s main naval base in Karlskrona in the southeast of the country and F7 at Såtenäs in the heart of Central Sweden.
Gripen E roll-out
Combined the three combat wings of the Swedish Air Force fly 76 operational single-seat C and 12 two-seat D versions. Like Brazil, Stockholm has ordered the new, larger and more capable Gripen E, of which at least 60 are to stream to the Swedish Air Force the coming years. The first prototype Gripen E is to be rolled out by SAAB in Linköping on 18 May this year.
During the annual Saab Gripen seminar, which was held on Thursday 17 March, Ulf Nilsson, head of Saab business area Aeronautics, and Richard Smith, head of Gripen marketing and sale, gave an update on the status on various developments on the Gripen.
At this moment, manufacturing of the first Gripen E prototype is still on schedule and within budget, as the aircraft is in final assembly now. Roll out is planned to take place at 18 May this year. This protoype will be used as test aircraft, so test equipment will be installed in it.
Competitions and tenders
At this moment, SAAB is involved in different competitions and tenders to market the Gripen system. Smith stated the Gripen has been offered to Croatia and Bulgaria as replacement of eageing eastern type of fighter aircraft. Negotiations started with Slovakia for delivery of 8 Gripens to replace the MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft, which are reaching the end of their service life. Finland is looking for new aircraft as replacement for the F-18 Hornet, in which SAAB participates in a tender for 40 Gripen E/F aircraft. Belgium still has to decide what will be the successor of the F-16’s, and the Gripen will take part in the tender for 30-36 frames. In the Asian Pacific market, SAAB started the negotiating process with Malaysia, and they’re even confident the Gripen has in chance in Indonesia. Further more, SAAB stll has a focuss on India, as the Swedish and Indian Prime ministers met in India recently. In the Americas-region Colombia got marketing info about the Gripen system.
Currently, there are 50 Brazilian engineers in Linköping, Sweden, who are being trained to learn the maintenance and development tools of the Gripen and the program. In April the next group will arrive in Sweden, and finally it is expected some 350 Brazilians have found there way to Linköping. SAAB and Embraer are building a new test and engineering center at Embraer’s industrial plant in Gavião Peixoto, Brazil. This will support the operations of the Brazilian Air Force Gripen aircraft.
SAAB expects to sell 400 aircraft in the next 20 years, with a backlog of 96 aircraft at the moment (60 Gripen E’s for Sweden and 36 for Brazil). At this moment the Gripen is already in service with the Swedish military, as well as in Thailand, South Africa, Czech Republic and Hungary.
Behold of the newest invention from Sweden. It doesn’t come in flat cardboard box, but in a fancy composite materials finishing on the back of a Canadian designed business jet. The Saab/Bombardier GlobalEye 6000 is about to make stealth technology, like of the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Irkut T-50, obsolete.
Or at least that is what Micael Johansson, head of Saab’s business area Electronic Defence Systems, is telling these days. The GlobalEye will automatically detect and track air and surface targets over a huge area, both on land, at sea and in the air.
Ground surveillance of moving vehicles can be conducted through long-range, wide-area ground moving target indication (GMTI) radar modes. The GlobalEye system can track very low-observable air and sea targets, including ‘stealthy’ aircraft, cruise missiles or submarine periscopes, even in heavy clutter and jamming environments.
“GlobalEye is a game changer that delivers a unique swing-role capability for simultaneous air, maritime and ground surveillance in a single solution, with the ability to change role dynamically, while airborne during any mission,” says Johansson.
The new radar system is marketed on the back of a Bombardier Global 6000 business jet. It is the successor of the Saab Erieye, of which 22 have been delivered on different aircraft to various countries: Brazil (5 R-99 (Embraer E145/Saab Erieye)), Greece (4 EMB-145H (Embraer E145/Saab Erieye), Pakistan (4 Saab Erieye 2000 (Saab 2000), United Arab Emirates (2 Saab 2000 Erieye, plus 2 Bombardier Global 6000/Erieye ordered), Saudi Arabia (2 Saab 2000 Erieye (Saab 2000), Sweden (2 Saab S 100D (Saab 340/Saab Erieye)), Thailand (2 S 100B (Saab 340/Saab Erieye), Mexico (1 E-99 (Embraer E145/Saab Erieye).
A giant winter war exercise is on its way in Norway. Cold Response 2016 kicks off in March, but already now preparations are on their way. Sweden takes it extra seriously, the country runs a pre-excercise of its own: Vintersol (Wintersun).
A few days ago a US Marines CH-53 Sea Stallion was offloaded from a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy on Vaernes Airbase in Norway. From 2 to 9 March the Marines will fight their way through the Trøndelag counties in Central Norway, together or against forces of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and, of course, Norway. It is such a big exercise that it will take another 13 days to repatriate all equipment involved.
Among the 15,000 troops expected to participate are many Swedes. To be fully ready a thousand Swedes are waging a winter war against each other from 5 to 10 February near Boden in the far north of the country. They include the crew of a NH90 helicopter – dubbed HKP 14 in Swedish service – flying in artillery command.
In 2018 Norway will see an even larger exercise when Trident Juncture is held with 25,000 participants.