Ukraine Formally Requests Swedish Government To Provide Ukraine With Gripen C/D Jets

Adjusting to Western-designed F-16s could be time consuming for Ukrainian pilots used to Soviet-era jets, but Kyiv is also reportedly seeking a fighter that experts say may be a better fit for Ukraine’s needs and easy to train on: Sweden’s JAS 39 Gripen.

The Ukrainians have “been eyeing them for over a decade,” Dmitri Alperovitch, host of the Geopolitics Decanted podcast, said on a recent episode recorded after a trip to Ukraine.

According to Alperovitch, Ukrainian officials say “they’re quite hopeful that they may be able to get at least some of them soon even as they’re pursuing the F-16.”

The Gripen is well regarded by experts and may be uniquely suited for the war in Ukraine. It can reach Mach 2 and fly at supersonic speeds without using an afterburner, a feature known as super-cruise that is shared by only a few jets, none of them Russian.

Besides air-to-surface missiles and bombs, the Gripen can carry a formidable suite of air-to-air missiles, including the IRIS-T, AIM-120 AMRAAM, and the cutting-edge Meteor, which boasts a range of more than 60 miles and can out-range Russia’s air-to-air missiles. Many Western countries also use these weapons, which may make it easier to resupply Ukraine.

The Gripen’s electronic-warfare suite was reportedly developed with Russian systems in mind, which would prove useful for countering Russia’s air defenses.

Adopting the Gripen would also be comparatively easy for Ukraine’s Air Force, as it is very pilot-friendly, according to a Gripen pilot, and only one member of the jet’s ground crew needs to be highly trained to maintain it. The Gripen is also inexpensive to operate, costing less per flight hour that the F-16 and other aircraft, according to a Janes Strategic Services study commissioned by Saab, the Gripen’s manufacturer.

The Gripen also has a short-takeoff-and-landing capability, allowing it to use small airfields and even highways, which would be vital if Russia takes out Ukraine’s bigger airfields.

Ukrainian officials say “the Gripens present a really unique opportunity for them to showcase how those planes are used in combat,” Alperovitch said.

Part of Ukraine’s pitch to Sweden “is to say ‘look, we can show you combat experience. We can do the marketing for your Gripens. Just give them to us and we’ll show you how they do against the Russian Air Force. That’ll be great for future marketing of your aircraft,'” Alperovitch added.

Sweden operates about 80 Gripen Cs and has ordered 60 Gripen Es, the new 4.5-generation variant, but has only received a handful. Russian aerial threats are a concern for Sweden, but the number of Gripens that Ukraine wants is “eminently doable and would not substantially decrease the capabilities of the Swedish Air Force,” Alperovitch said, though he declined to say how many Gripens Ukraine is seeking.

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