‘Better Suited’ Than F-16 Fighting Falcons, Ukrainian Fighter Pilots Could Finally Get Their Hands On JAS-39 Gripens

Swedish defense minister has revealed that the Scandinavian country is considering training Ukrainian pilots on its JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets as an international coalition to train and deploy Western aircraft to Ukraine is slowly taking shape.

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Ignoring Ukrainian calls for fighter jets, Sweden has so far maintained that it needs its Gripen fighters for its own territorial defense. However, the Swedish defense minister Pl Jonsson told TV4 that his country was considering a request from Ukraine to let its pilots test fly the Swedish plane with a “positive spirit.”

“That could, for example, mean test flights, using simulators, learning more about the extensive ground system that is part of the Gripen system,” he said on May 25, referring to it as a “familiarization program.” However, he stopped short of offering more details, including where the training will likely be held.

The announcement comes when Ukraine’s demand for Western fighter jets is being worked on among the NATO allies. For instance, the UK and France announced earlier this month that they would train Ukrainian fighter pilots to fly the fourth-generation Western combat aircraft.

Although the focus has invariably shifted to the F-16 fighter delivery to Ukraine, the training module in the UK would be such that it would allow Ukrainian pilots to fly any fourth-generation aircraft, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F-16, or even the Saab Gripen, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.

Highlighting that the Ukrainian fighter pilots will be trained to operate a host of 4th-generation fighter jets, the British statement said, “This will adapt the program used by UK pilots to provide Ukrainians with piloting skills they can apply to different kinds of aircraft. This training goes hand in hand with UK efforts to work with other countries on providing F-16 jets — Ukraine’s fighter jets of choice.”

The announcement by the Swedish Defense Minister is just one of the many made in recent days. For instance, US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin announced that NATO members Denmark and the Netherlands would lead the coalition of partner nations lining up to train Ukraine pilots how to fly F-16 fighter jets.

“In the coming weeks, my Dutch and Danish counterparts will work with the United States and other allies to develop a training framework,” he added. “Norway, Belgium, Portugal, and Poland have already offered to contribute to training, and we expect more countries to join.”

Although non-F-16 flying countries like the United Kingdom and France have pledged to train Ukrainian test pilots, they have categorically stated that transferring fighter jets from their inventories was out of the question. It may be the same for Sweden, which has refused to heed the repeated calls made for its JAS 39 Gripen aircraft.

“We need them for the defense of our territory right now, but we are opening up for letting the Ukrainians test the Gripen,” he told TV4. “That is in line with what other countries are doing, both those who operate F-16 and also Tornado” fighters, he said.

SAAB Gripens – Best Choice For Ukraine

When Ukraine first intensified its calls for Western fighter jets, military experts, as well as war scholars, threw their weight behind the Swedish Gripen aircraft as the most suitable for operations in the war-torn country.

SAAB Gripen
SAAB Gripen

In a report released on November 7 last year by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), experts claimed that regarding operational needs for Ukrainian air defense, the Swedish aircraft is “by far the most suitable candidate” for Western-made fighter jets.

According to SAAB, the Gripen C/D fighter jets of the SwAF, for instance, can land at 600 meters and take off at 500 meters.

The Gripen can take off and land quickly, allowing it to operate from taxiways, small public airports, and motorways. The fighter had canards, which increased its angle of attack and provided additional lift at slower landing speeds.

Once the fighter touches down, it has to be stopped quickly. For this, the Gripen’s predecessor SAAB 37 Viggen, had a thrust reverser that slowed down and brought the aircraft to a halt. However, SAAB decided to drop the thrust reverser system and instead used the canard and wheel brakes to stop quickly.

Additionally, rather than maintaining the aircraft at set repair facilities, mobile maintenance teams transport fuel, ammunition, and components to the aircraft’s location while operating military trucks and vans.

SAAB asserts that with just one technician and five conscript mechanics, refueling and rearming—including reloading the cannon and installing air-to-air missiles—can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes.

Moreover, Push-button latches used to open and close access panels make it simple to reach the maintenance regions of the aircraft. The whole maintenance equipment fits inside a single compact shipping container. Further, to reduce the time the crew spends moving around, the service panel and refueling hatch are situated nearby.

This would allow the Ukrainian Air Force to seamlessly operate the aircraft, bracing against a relentless barrage of missiles raining down on the frontline military infrastructure.