The Swedish government is planning to equip fighter jets with cruise missiles, following the announcement made on a military spending hike linked to the Ukraine crisis.
“In the future the ability to combat longer range targets can be important,” Defence Minister Karin Enstroem was quoted as saying by Sveriges Radio, adding that the missiles would have “a high precision which acts as a deterrent”. “So it would raise our collective defence capabilities and thus raise the threshold effects of our defence.”
The Swedish defence forces have argued for longer range missiles to deter Russia from destroying Swedish weapons from a distance. The new missiles — to be fitted on Gripen jets — would have double the current range at 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).
“It shows a potential opponent that we can fight at long distances and therefore we believe it is a deterrent,” Colonel Johan Hansson was quoted as saying. “If we are detected early we must be able to have a firing range that is much longer than what we’ve previously been used to.”
Meanwhile, Sweden’s second opposition party, the Greens, criticized the announcement, warning that it marked a departure from the country’s defensive stance that could “influence other parties” and encourage rearmament in the region.
However the support came from the Sweden’s largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, who sought to play down speculation of a confrontation with Russia.
“We have no such ambitions. In an acute situation there can be a need for different options, but we are not a country that is out to attack anyone else,” Peter Hultqvist, the Social Democrat chairman of the parliament’s defence committee, told news agency TT.
The government on April 22 announced plans to increase the spending gradually until 2024 - citing the crisis in Ukriane and unsettling development with Russia. The annual defence budget increase would be around 5.5 billion kronor (604 million euros, $835 million), more than in previous estimates, according to AFP.
The current annual budget is 47 billion kronor – which includes an additional 10 Swedish-made Saab Gripen fighter jets, bringing an airforce fleet upgrade to 70 planes.
A major review of the country’s defences is due for completion in mid-May.