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Military Capabilities

Farnborough 2018: Swedish Air Force faces Russian threat

19 July 2018
A SwAF Gripen C takes off for an air-defence mission. Maj Gen Helgesson expects the Gripen C/D to remain in service for some time. Source: SwAF

The Swedish Air Force (SwAF) is taking measures in response to the increasing Russian threat, its chief of staff, Major General Mats Helgesson, and his wing commanders have said. Speaking at the Royal Air Force Club in London on 15 July on the eve of the Farnborough International Airshow, Maj Gen Helgesson described the threats the SwAF faces and how it is being dispersed as a result.

He said Sweden faces the threat of hybrid “grey zone” warfare, but also full-scale war. If it continues to spend the same level on defence as it does now, Sweden’s military capabilities will decline, with a doubling in the defence budget required to increase these capabilities, according to Maj Gen Helgesson.

He stated that there is a requirement for 60 more JAS 39 Gripens, the replacement of the Erieye airborne early warning (AEW) and control system, and the procurement of medium- and high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems for the SwAF to become stronger and more robust. He expected Gripen C/D fighters to remain in service for some time, with the Gripen E entering service in the mid-2020s. He said the decision to replace the Erieye would be taken in the early 2020s, with the new system beginning to enter service in the early 2030s.

In response to “world events”, the air staff is being moved from Stockholm to Uppsala, effective 1 January 2019, to make it “more robust and secure”, Maj Gen Helgesson reported. Under the ‘Basing 2020/25’ concept, the SwAF is being redeployed, which Maj Gen Helgesson compared to its Cold War posture, albeit with fewer bases. He reported that the SwAF has been practicing landing on and taking off from 15-20-m-wide roads as short as 600-800 m for the last year. Colonel Lars Hendriks, commander of the SwAF’s F7 Wing in Såtenäs in southwestern Sweden, said his unit is working together with the local authorities to close highways for these landings and take-offs to reduce disruption, including to emergency services.

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