Tag Archives: Sweden

Sweden puts new life in Cold War fighter jet strategy

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.

Riksväg runway

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).

Gripen taxiing to the short runway at Vidsel (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
Gripen taxiing to the short runway at Vidsel (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

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.

We're wondering what the pilot was doing in the trees (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
We’re wondering what the pilot was doing in the trees (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

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.

The redefined Gripen Forward Operating concept put to the test (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
The redefined Gripen Forward Operating concept put to the test (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
With precision ground crew puts a AIM-120 AMRAAM missile onto the Gripen (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
With precision ground crew puts a AIM-120 AMRAAM missile onto the Gripen (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

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.

Leaving a cloud of snow behind (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
Leaving a cloud of snow behind (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

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.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Take-off! From Vidsel’s short runway (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

SAAB Gripen program update

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.

Gripen E/F

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.

Brazil

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.

Two Gripens over an Icelandic postcard. (Image © 21st TAFB)
Two Gripens over an Icelandic postcard. (Image © 21st TAFB)

Proven concept

The Gripen also proved its value in recent conflicts, for example by doing Air Policing missions, such as the Hungarians  did over the Baltics, and the Czechs operated several times from Iceland.

So we certainly will hear more about SAAB and the Gripen in the year’s to come.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: Artist impression released by the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs of the Saab JAS 39 Gripen E/F in Brazilian Air Force colours (Image © Utrikes Departementet)

 

Swedish-Canadian aircraft “to make stealth obsolete”

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.

‘Stealthy’ aircraft

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.

Surveillance

“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.

Saab Erieye

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).

United Arab Emirates AEW&C

The United Arab Emirates will be the first to field a version of the new radar mounted onto the Global 6000, of an order placed in November 2015. Although there is some criticism in Swedish parliament against selling the AEW&C system to countries at war (the UAE fights in Yemen), the deal is considered to go through.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Computer rendering of the new Swedish-Canadian Saab/Bombardier GlobalEye 6000 (Image © Saab AB)

First anti-submarine NH90 for Sweden – finally

In a program plagued by delay after delay, Airbus Helicopters on Thursday 17 December finally delivered the first anti-submarine warfare-equipped NH90 helicopter to Sweden. The Scandinavian country desperately has been needing an advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability for years, as its waters in the Baltic Sea are regularly visited by submarines and submersibles, supposedly mainly of Russian origin.

The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration FMV (Försvarets Materielverk) took delivery of the NH90. The helo has a customized mission system including underwater sonar, tactical radar and high cabin for improved interior space. In total, Sweden has ordered 18 NH90s, 13 equipped for search-and-rescue missions (SAR) and five in ASW configuration. In Swedish service the type is dubbed HKP14 (Helikopter 14).


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Winching on Swedish NH90 not so easy, yet

Operational winch testing with the HKP14 (NH90) of the Swedish Armed Forces. Notice two crew members to operate the winch safely (Image © Trejde helikoterflottiljen / Försvarsmakten)
Operational winch testing with the HKP14 (NH90) of the Swedish Armed Forces. Notice two crew members to operate the winch safely (Image © Trejde helikoterflottiljen / Försvarsmakten)


HKP14 Configurations

The first of the ASW HKP14 has now been delivered, with four more following. Also, four SAR-configured Swedish NH90s will be re-configured into the same ASW-platform. In the end, Sweden will therefore have nine NH90s for SAR duties and nine for ASW tasks. The Swedish ASW variant has been in development since 2007. Delays sparked strong criticism from the Swedish military, with some officials quoted as having lost confidence in the program.

A HKP14 in Swedish Army livery. All military rotary wing of Sweden is flown by various units of the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Command (Helikopterflottiljen) (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A HKP14 in Swedish Army livery. All military rotary wing of Sweden is flown by various units of the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Battalion (Helikopterflottiljen) (Image © Elmer van Hest)

UH60M Black Hawk

The introduction of the NH90 into the Swedish army was also not without problems. To overcome these, Sweden took desperate measures in 2010 and ordered 15 UH-60M (HKP16) Black Hawk helicopters as a stop gap. Having become the first export customer of that version of the Black Hawk and very happy with its performance, Sweden will keep the Sikorsky tactical transport helicopters besides the 18 HKP14s.


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The retired HKP 10. Seen here at the 2012 Swedish Military Airshow at F3 Linköping-Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)
The retired HKP 10. Seen here at the 2012 Swedish Military Airshow at F3 Linköping-Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)


Helikopterflottiljen

All helicopters in Swedish military service are operated by the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Battalion (Försvarsmaktens Helikopterflottiljen). With its headquarters at Linköping-Malmen, the choppers fly from that airbase as well as Luleå-Kallax in the far north and Ronneby near Karlskrona in the far south. Apart from the HKP14s and HKP16s, the battalion operates 12 AgustaWestland HKP15A (A109) battlefield support helicopters as well as 8 AgustaWestland HKP15B (A109) maritime helicopters. Once the last NH90 has been delivered the total fleet will be 45 helicopters.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger
Feature image: The HKP14 in ASW-configuration (Image © Airbus Helicopters)

Sweden ignores French request for military support

The Swedish government is mostly ignoring a request by France for military support. Paris asked for combat assets after the November 2015 terror attacks in the French capital that left 130 people (plus 7 attackers) dead, about 90 people critically wounded and another 270 less-critical injured.

Within European Union agreements France subsequently asked all EU members states for military support, to which all countries agreed, arguing that the attacks executed by a cell of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS / ISIL / Daesh) forces that rule in large parts of Syria and Iraq was a military attack. Paris hoped for Swedish SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets for tactical reconnaissance for Operation Barkhane (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger) and/or Syria. But on Wednesday 16 December 2015 Stockholm says no to this request.

International grey zone

“The most important reason is that deploying Gripen planes would put them in a grey zone when it comes to international law. That could change once there is a very clear United Nations mandate,” Swedish foreign minister Margo Wallström said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

One of three C-17A Globemasters of the the NATO/EU Heavy Airlift Wing, taking off from Linköping-Malmen in Sweden (Image © Marcel Burger)
One of three C-17A Globemasters of the the NATO/EU Heavy Airlift Wing, taking off from Linköping-Malmen in Sweden (Image © Marcel Burger)

Papa C-17

However, Sweden is willing to give away 50 to 100 hours of its 160 hours on the NATO/EU Boeing C-17A Globemaster III Heavy Airlift Wing based at Papa Airbase in Hungary. Moreover, Stockholm is willing to look at a French request to use Swedish weapon stocks or military materiel. In 2017 Sweden is planning to contribute one of its TP 84 (C-130) Hercules tactical airlifter to the UN force in Mali (MINUSMA). Political and military experts, and part of the opposition in Swedish parliament, sees the Swedish answer to the Paris request as an unclear compromise, and certainly something far off of what the French government was hoping for.

Operation Unified Protector

In April to October 2011 first eight, later five Swedish Air Force Gripen jets flew tactical reconnaissance missions under NATO umbrella in the skies over Libya, operating from Sicily. This operation Unified Protector was backed by the UN. The 2011 deployed marked the first Swedish combat missions since the 1960s, when SAAB J29 Tunnans formed the air element of the UN forces in Congo.

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