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Sweden's Gripen aircraft reach Sicily

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Sweden's Gripen aircraft reach Sicily
08:56 CEST+02:00
All eight Swedish JAS Gripen fighters have landed at a base in Siciliy and are now under NATO command. They can be in the airspace over Libya by the middle of next week, reported news agency TT.

The first three JAS Gripen fighters landed Saturday afternoon at Sigonella base in Sicily. “We flew via a base in Hungary and landed there, and then later continued to Sicily,” Anders Silwer, head of the Swedish air force, told TT.

A Gulfstream also flew down to Sigonella with technicians and security personnel.

Five other Gripen fighters arrived Sunday and an additional four Hercules planes are currently on their way to Sicily.

Silwer told TT that it is likely that two Swedish flying officers each will be placed at three combat control centers – in Napels and outside Venice in Italy, and at Izmir in Turkey.

The Swedish Armed Forces are now analyzing which of NATO's mission rules the Swedish pilots will follow. Later the pilots will be educated on the rules before they start to fly in the area.

Nine of the ten pilots who are participating in the operation have chosen to remain anonymous under the mission.

“It's a way for the pilots and their families to have some peace from the media,” Johan Svetoft, Head of the F17 base in Kallinge, told Swedish Radio (Sveriges Radio) in Blekinge.

Criticism has arisen because the JAS Gripen fighters only can attack enemy fighter planes at a time when Qaddafi's air force is likely destroyed.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that he needed a broad majority in parliament, adding that the Social Democrats set those limits to support the mission.

“Then I had to kind of hold them back within the Moderate and other Alliance parties who also thought that Sweden should take a more offensive role,” he told TT.

Reinfeldt would not air his personal opinions on the question except to say that broad support was most important. He added that a no-fly zone must be monitored and that altercations can occur.

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