Sweden ‘needs war to sell fighter planes’

Sweden's military leadership wants to see JAS Gripen fighter planes sent into combat in Afghanistan and Africa, partly as a means of showcasing the planes for the export market.

If the government accepts the military’s forthcoming proposals, it will be the first time since a 1962 UN mission to Congo that Swedish Air Force planes are used in armed battle.

Speaking to Sveriges Radio, Major General Jan Jonsson foresees JAS Gripen fighter aircraft being deployed in direct battle situations.

“We can’t rule out using air force back-up in difficult situations where our ground forces are in trouble,” he said.

The Air Force would benefit greatly from seeing its aircraft used in battle, as well as giving its pilots first-hand combat experience.

But Sveriges Radio’s army sources also reveal that such missions would not be carried out for purely military purposes. A decision to send JAS Gripen planes into action in war zones which are supervised by military leaders from other countries, including many NATO member states, could also create invaluable PR ahead of future export deals.

Sweden’s air force and navy are generally used rather too sparingly on international missions, according to Jan Jonssson. The deployment of JAS Gripen planes in Afghanistan or in new missions to Africa would be a step in the right direction, he says.