Zelenskyy: Swedish-made ‘Sukhoi killer’ Gripen jets nearing appearance in Ukrainian skies

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at his country retreat in Harpsund, Sweden, August 19, 2023. Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

Ukraine has begun discussing with Sweden the possibility of receiving Gripen jets to boost its air defences, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday after meeting Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that the Ukrainian military has started participating in test flights on the Swedish Gripen combat aircraft and that Kyiv is in negotiations for these aircraft to “appear in [Ukrainian] skies”.

Zelenskyy said: “We are trying very, very hard to increase the capabilities of military aviation. This is one of the hardest tasks, but I am sure: we will accomplish it.”

Zelenskiy’s visit is his first to Sweden since Russia’s invasion in February 2022 and the talks about obtaining Gripen jets, which he cast as preliminary, follow approval from the United States for Denmark and the Netherlands to send F-16 fighters to Ukraine.

“Today we discussed in detail the future steps regarding the possibility of opening the subject of receiving Swedish Gripens,” Zelenskiy said at a joint news briefing with Kristersson, adding that the topic would be central to his meetings with other Swedish officials.

He added: “Now, we have a breakthrough result regarding Gripen fighters – cool, modern Swedish combat aircraft. Our soldiers are already starting to test them. And we are step by step, negotiation by negotiation, we are getting closer to the fact that Gripen fighters will appear in our sky.”

Zelenskyy discussed the topic with the Prime Minister of Sweden and representatives of the Swedish parliamentary parties.

Sweden’s jet fighter JAS 39 Gripen E flies over the Gotland island in the Baltic Sea, May 11, 2022. (Reuters)

In June, the Swedish government said it would give Ukrainian pilots the opportunity to test its Saab-made Gripen fighter jet, but it has also said that it needs all its planes to defend Swedish territory.

Zelenskiy also said on Saturday that Ukrainian pilots had already begun training on the planes.

Kristersson made no mention of Gripens in his remarks, but condemned a Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv on Saturday that killed seven people and wounded 90.

“It only reinforces the need for us to stand with your in all your struggles,” Kristersson said.

Ukraine and Sweden also signed an agreement which will see Ukraine begin production of Sweden’s CV90 combat vehicle.

Zelenskiy was also due to meet the speaker of Sweden’s parliament the Riksdag, the supreme commander of the Swedish armed forces, and the leaders of Sweden’s main political parties, according to a Swedish government statement.

Sweden has been aiding Ukraine’s war efforts by supplying weapons such as tanks, anti-aircraft systems and armoured Type 90 infantry fighting vehicles.

Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson said on Tuesday the government was planning a new $313.5 million military support package to Ukraine, consisting mainly of ammunition and spare parts to previously delivered weapon systems.

The package will be Sweden’s 13th to Ukraine since the start of the war, taking the total value of the Nordic country’s aid to $1.8 billion.

About Saab Gripen Fighter Jets

Manufacturer Saab said “Gripen fighters are designed with smart and easily adaptable technical solutions to be able to dominate the battlespace for decades to come.”

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen boasts a unique combination of agility, advanced avionics, and cost-effectiveness. Saab said it has “cutting-edge technologies, the latest systems, sensors, weapons and pods to ensure combat advantage, delivering air superiority in highly contested environments. Silent networking and total sensor fusion across a tactical air unit to blind and confuse the enemy.”

Gripen jets have “the powerful GE F414G engine, great range and the ability to carry an impressive payload with its ten hard-points. It also has a new AESA-radar, InfraRed Search and Track System (IRST), highly advanced electronic warfare and communication systems.”

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