Using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in danger zones14 September 2023
Why the BRICS love the Dassault Rafale15 September 2023
Sweden is considering supplying Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine to bolster its air defense against Russian aggression. This article explores the strategic advantages of Gripen, the implications of this possible acquisition for Ukraine, and the challenges that lie ahead.
Against a background of continuing tensions with Russia and urgent air defense needs, Ukraine is currently exploring the possibility of acquiring Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets. These aircraft, renowned for their efficiency and versatility, could represent a major asset for Ukraine in its quest to strengthen its defense capability. In this article, we take a closer look at the motivations behind this Swedish move, the distinctive features of the Gripen aircraft, the possible consequences of this acquisition for Ukraine, and the challenges ahead.
Gripen has been designed to meet major challenges, including the possibility of confrontation with Russia without immediate NATO support. The fighter is praised by experts for its advanced technical features, including the ability to be equipped with long-range air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground missiles. In addition, it stands out for its operational efficiency, requiring less space for take-off and landing, making it adaptable to rougher terrain. Maintenance is also relatively straightforward, a key advantage for Ukrainian forces.
Another Gripen strength lies in its electronic warfare capabilities, specially designed to counter the radars of Russian aircraft and ground-based air defense systems, which have posed serious problems for Ukrainian forces. Little wonder, then, that experts at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) have singled out the Gripen as the most suitable candidate for Ukraine’s operational needs.
According to their analysis, “among the Western fighter aircraft currently available, the Swedish Saab Gripen C/D is by far the most suitable candidate in terms of operational requirements”. This suitability stems largely from the Swedish Air Force’s emphasis on low-level air superiority tactics from dispersed bases, an approach similar to that of Ukraine.
Consequences for Ukraine
The potential acquisition of Gripen aircraft would have significant consequences for Ukraine. Firstly, it would considerably strengthen its air defense capability in the face of Russian aggression. Currently equipped with fighter aircraft of Soviet origin, Ukraine suffers from a technological disadvantage in the face of Russian forces. The introduction of Gripen aircraft would reduce this gap and strengthen deterrence.
In addition, Gripen aircraft could play an essential role in protecting Ukrainian airspace and defending its borders. The ability of these aircraft to operate from dispersed bases would offer greater flexibility and the possibility of responding rapidly to threats.
However, it is important to note that even if Sweden decides to supply Gripens to Ukraine, it will take time to implement this operation. Consideration will need to be given to the transfer of aircraft, training of Ukrainian pilots and other logistical procedures. Consequently, it is unlikely that the Gripens will be operational before mid-2024 at the earliest.
The challenges ahead
The acquisition of the Gripen aircraft will not be without its challenges. First of all, there is the question of the limited availability of these aircraft. Sweden has only a few dozen units, the majority of which are Gripen C variants. Ukraine, meanwhile, plans to receive between 16 and 18 aircraft, which could pose problems in terms of availability.
In addition, Gripen’s operating costs must be taken into account. Although these aircraft are more cost-effective than the American F-16s currently used to train Ukrainian pilots, they still require a substantial budget for maintenance and operation. Ukraine will therefore need to allocate adequate financial resources to support these new additions to its air fleet.
Finally, there is the political question. Sweden has already expressed its concern about the need to safeguard its own national security interests. Stockholm has a limited number of Gripen aircraft, and does not wish to give them up without thought. What’s more, only six countries operate these fighters, and of these, only Sweden and the Czech Republic are supporting Ukraine with military aid. This means that Ukraine will have to use diplomacy and persuasion to obtain these aircraft.
Sweden’s exploration of the possibility of supplying Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine marks a potential strategic turning point in Ukrainian air defense. These aircraft offer undeniable advantages in terms of combat capability, operational flexibility and operating costs. However, significant challenges remain, including limited aircraft availability, operating costs and political considerations.
If Ukraine succeeds in overcoming these obstacles and obtaining the Gripens, it could considerably strengthen its position in the face of Russian aggression and improve its ability to defend its airspace. However, it is essential to maintain a diplomatic dialogue with Sweden and to ensure that this acquisition is carried out efficiently and transparently.
The future of Ukrainian air defense is still uncertain, but exploring this option shows Ukraine’s determination to strengthen its national security and meet the challenges ahead. The international community will continue to closely monitor developments and their impact on regional stability.
Fly a jet fighter is the fighter jet experience specialist.