Swedish Gripen fighters on Libya standby
Published: 21 Mar 2011 10:24 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Mar 2011 10:24 GMT+01:00
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“The armed forces have informed the government that we are able to deploy six to eight aircraft. At the moment they are on a ten day standby, so it wouldn’t take longer than that,” Therese Fagerstedt of the Swedish Armed Forces information department told news agency TT.
Where the aircraft would be stationed and how much ground crew would be needed is yet to be determined.
How long it would actually take for the unit to be deployed depends on the political decision making process.
Sources with insight into NATO have revealed to the Swedish Dagens Nyheter daily that Sweden will be asked to lend their support by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.
The Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) and the Christian Democrats have criticised the stance of the foreign minister Carl Bildt and the government, who have opted to wait for the request rather than offer Swedish help.
Allan Widman of the Liberal Party would like the government to make available the ‘Expeditionary Air Wings’, an eight plane strong flying unit, which is part of the Nordic Battle Group.
“I think we need to send the message that we can and wish to participate,” he told DN.
The foreign minister Carl Bildt does not however share the view of his government coalition colleague.
In a radio interview on Sunday, Bildt said that Sweden should wait to offer military assistance until requested.
However, if NATO was to approach Sweden, Bildt did not rule out possible military participation.
“All alternatives are still on the table. In the case of a request we will look at all the different ways that Sweden can contribute,” he said.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Ring, an expert on military strategy from the Swedish National Defense College (Försvarshögskolan), there is a need of further air power in the Libya operations.
“France have deployed about a hundred planes, which may sound like a lot. But compared to the air attacks on Kosovo and Serbia there are very few aircraft in action. Back then there were 700-800 aircraft per day,” he told TT.
On Monday Carl Bildt heads to Brussels to meet with foreign ministers from other EU member states.
On his personal blog "Alla Dessa Dagar" (literally: All These Days) he wrote on Sunday that the situation in Libya is certain to be high on the agenda.
“Sweden will support the resolution in the way and with the resources that we are best suited to,“ Bildt wrote.
At the moment, he pointed out, the military action is the main focus, but there is more to the resolution than that and a role for Sweden in the operations is by no means certain.