Sweden’s air force ‘can’t send secret messages’

Sweden's air force 'can't send secret messages'
A prominent Riksdag member has expressed outrage upon learning that Sweden's new JAS Gripen fighter jets can’t receive encrypted communications.

As a consequence, an enemy would be able to hear any orders Swedish commanders sent to pilots in a time of war.

“This is extremely serious,” said Allan Widman, a Liberal Party member of the Riksdag’s defence committee, to Sveriges Radio (SR).

An earlier version of the Gripen used by Sweden, set to be taken out of service in 2011, has the capability to receive messages on Sweden’s own encryption system.

In 2007, the Riksdag authorized the military to purchase a newer version of the Swedish-made fighter jet outfitted with new technology to facilitate communication with Nato aircraft.

As a result of the upgrade, however, the new Gripens aren’t equipped to receive communications from Sweden’s encryption system, leaving open communications as the only way for Swedish commanders on the ground to give orders to pilots in the air.

“It’s obviously a very sad situation we find ourselves in when we can no longer securely and secretly command our combat aircraft,” said Widman.

“The big problem is that any future combatant would know in part what we’re thinking of doing and its also obviously much easier for him to disrupt our communications.”

According to Torgny Fälthammar, head of development for the Swedish Air Force, the military won’t be able to upgrade the new Gripen’s communications capability until 2015 because of cutbacks on defence spending.

Widman is especially upset that no one in the military informed the Riksdag of the new aircraft’s diminished capability at the time of the purchase.

“I’m saying we must demand responsibility from the people who managed this process without making it clear the costs involved with transitioning to only the latest version of the Gripen,” he told SR, adding that the generals involved ought to consider resigning.

“This this happened in any other country, that is exactly what the consequence would be,” he said.

Widman is now proposing that the earlier version of the Gripen be kept in service until the newer versions can be upgraded.