The Swedish Air Force (SwAF) may continue operating its Saab JAS 39 Gripen C fighters beyond their current planned 2026 retirement date as the service looks to make up an anticipated shortfall in Gripen E numbers, a senior official told reporters.
Speaking in Stockholm on 8 May, Colonel Magnus Liljegren from the SwAF headquarters said that, with the service currently slated to receive only 60 of a requested 60 to 80 Gripen E fighters from 2022 through to 2026, it may look to retain in service a number of its 73 Gripen Cs beyond this final delivery date to address this numbers gap (it had already been disclosed that a number of the 24 twin-seat Gripen Ds will likely be retained as operational trainers).
"We are now getting 60 Gripen Es, though this may rise to 70. It has still not been decided what we will do with the Gripen Cs. The SwAF hasn't specifically said that it would like to fly them beyond 2026, but if we cannot have 80 Gripen Es then may look to keep some C/Ds," Col Liljegren said.
Although retaining a number of Gripen Cs is an option, Col Liljegren noted that under current planning arrangements there is now additional money to fund such a plan. "It would cost a lot of money and there is no money for it after 2026, but also there is no political decision to stop flying them after this date," he said.
While Col Liljegren did not disclose possible numbers of Gripen Cs that might be retained after 2026, it would likely be more than the 20 needed to make up the gap between the 80 Gripen Es that the SwAF wants and the 60 that it is getting (or 10 if the number of Gripen Es rises to 70), due to their reduced capabilities.
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