A Swedish Air Force chief has revealed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has motivated Sweden to develop a brand new strategy for their next-generation of combat aircraft.
Now a member of NATO, the Swedish government has chosen to boost their 2022 military budget, from 1.5 percent of gross domestic production to 2 percent GDP. This is an increase of about $3 billion krona (the equivalent of $286.6 million). Swedish Air Force Chief Major General Carl-Johan Edstrom comments that the larger budget will definitely allow them to develop the appropriate strategies for developing fighter jets of the future.
In a recent speech at London’s Royal Air Force Club, Edstrom said, “We need to put out a new strategy, as a nation, for our fighter systems.” He also notes that this is important because Sweden is one of only three Western countries with a respected ability to manufacture domestic fighter aircraft: the other two countries are France and the United States. Accordingly, he theorizes that NATO “would like us to stay in that position and be a leading nation when it comes to developing the future-fifth generation systems.”
Now, just a month ago, the Swedish Defence Material Administration awarded a contract to vehicle-maker Saab for the purpose of studying the development of future fighter aircraft. This contract was worth 250 million krona ($23.8 million). Of course, the Sweden-based aerospace company built the Gripen aircraft operated by the Swedish Air Force; and now the service has a plan to retire its C/D-model Gripens in 2035. This effort, combined with Saab’s study efforts will next inform Sweden’s strategy for replacing those aging aircraft.
When asked whether or not Sweden’s NATO membership will require the new service to specialize on specific areas of development, Edstrom could not comment. It is probably too soon to tell, after all, since 30-country alliance only approved Finland’s and Sweden’s entry this month. Furthermore, formalizing the decision must be ratified by each member nation’s legislative body; and that could take up to a year—maybe more—to complete.
In addition to this, the Swedish Air Force is also looking at upgrading the Gripen C/D fleet. Edstrom warrants this move will outfit them with advanced weaponry and an updated radar system.