Proponents of such a plan suggest that since the Gripen is not a U.S. fighter, the move would be less controversial than delivering the F-16, which Kyiv has also said it wants.
There are plenty of reasons the Gripen could be a good fit for Ukraine.
The first true Swedish multirole combat aircraft – capable of conducting interception, ground attack, and reconnaissance – the Gripen is also considered the best non-stealth fighter in service today.
It is a mature program, having taken flight more than three decades ago. Yet despite its age, the aircraft is highly agile. The Mach-2 delta wing and canard fighter jet is powered by a Volvo turbofan engine with an afterburner. It has a range of up to 3,200 km and can fly at an altitude of 15,240 meters. It also has a lower cost per flight hour than many other aircraft.
According to Saab, the Gripen can refuel and rearm in 10 minutes and head back into a fight. As with all Swedish aircraft developed since the 1950s, it can also operate from short runways, including converted roads and highways. The fighter needs a surface just 16 meters wide and 500 meters long to take off, and it requires a stretch of 600 meters to land. The fighter’s canards also help with maneuverability by increasing its angle of attack and providing more lift at slower speeds during landing.
“Air base attacks may or may not determine the outcome of a war these days. But they are worrisome,” explained Mats Palmberg, head of Gripen India campaign “The long range, highly effective missiles of today, along with UAVs, put precious human lives at risk. A modern air force must secure its air bases by spreading out and operating from multiple locations. A fighter which supports dispersed operations is the need of the hour.”
Why It Won’t Happen
Sending the JAS 39 Gripen to aid Kyiv could solve a couple of problems. Saab has struggled to find foreign buyers for the aircraft, and its capabilities would certainly be put to test in the skies over Ukraine. That might encourage nations that have rejected the aircraft, in favor of alternatives such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, to reconsider their choice.
However, there are a few issues.
The first and most significant is that Sweden doesn’t have the fighters sitting around to send immediately. Modern combat aircraft take time to produce, and manufacturers don’t have products lined up like cars at a dealership, waiting for buyers. Stockholm isn’t about to send fighters from its own air force to Ukraine. Even if Sweden pledged to provide the aircraft, it would likely take years for the first fighters to arrive. Supplying parts and training could also present logistical challenges.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.