Ukraine Could be Flying the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen – Sweden is now considering whether it would allow Ukrainian pilots to get into the cockpit of its JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.
The Associated Press reported just last week that while Stockholm has ruled out sending any Gripen aircraft to Ukraine, citing the need for the fighter in its own territorial defense.
However, the Swedish Air Force might be open to allowing Ukrainian pilots to test the fighter.
“That could, for example, mean test flights, using simulators, learning more about the extensive ground system that is part of the Gripen system,” Defense Minister Pål Jonsson told Swedish broadcaster TV4.
“We need them for the defense of our territory right now, but we are opening up for letting the Ukrainians test the Gripen,” Jonsson added. “That is in line with what other countries are doing, both those who operate F-16 and also Tornado.”
This offer to test the Gripen would be as part of a “familiarization program,” which does call into question what purpose it would actually serve – other than to allow a few Ukrainian pilots to gain experience on the aircraft.
However, it could serve as a first step in eventually providing the JAS 39 fighters to Ukraine.
JAS 39 – Get a Gripen
As previously reported, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen-C (“Griffin”) single-engine tactical fighter is considered – along with the U.S.-made F-16 Fighting Falcon – to be arguably the most viable Western aircraft to aid Ukraine.
It was specifically designed to operate at low cost and can be operated in cold climates from rugged satellite bases, with limited maintenance. The Swedish fourth-generation multi-role fighter is also capable of conducting ground attack, reconnaissance, and interception missions; while its formidable airframe is widely considered to be inferior only to the F-35 Lightning II.
The JAS 39 Gripen was developed as part of Sweden’s need to upgrade its fleet of Saab 35 Draken and Saab 37 Viggen fighters. Though the Swedish government considered acquiring foreign fighters including F-16s, F/A-18s, and even Mirage 2000s, Stockholm opted to stick with a homegrown Saab jet.
The JAS-39 made its first flight in December 1988, and it entered operational service with the Swedish Air Force in 1997. A total of 204 aircraft in three batches had been ordered, of which to date 74 aircraft have been delivered.
Kyiv Calls for Western-made Fighters
Ukraine has repeatedly requested Western fighter jets to help it resist the Russian invasion. It was only a few weeks that the United States and other NATO countries agreed to allow Ukrainian pilots to receive training with the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
There have been reports that the Netherlands is now considering sending a number of the Fighting Falcons to Ukraine after pilot training is completed, but no decision has been finalized.
The Ukrainian Air Force currently employs Soviet-designed aircraft including the Mikoyan MiG-29, Sukhoi Su-24, Sukhoi Su-25, and Sukhoi Su-27.
According to U.S. defense officials, Ukraine has around 100 combat aircraft in service, and any additional multirole fighters would greatly enhance its aerial capabilities.
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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 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.