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US fuel stops Gripen Libya mission

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US fuel stops Gripen Libya mission
07:55 CEST+02:00
The Swedish JAS Gripen aircraft deployed in Sicily as part of NATO's Libya mission remained grounded on Thursday as the fuel available is suitable only for US navy aircraft.

The eight fighter jets are located in the US part of the Sigonella airbase on Sicily and the only fuel available it that which is used for US navy aircraft.

The Gripen were due to participate in their first mission over Libya on Thursday but this has now been delayed and test flights have been postponed.

According to the outline plan, the eight aircraft were all due to monitor the UN no-fly zone over the civil-war torn country from Thursday but on arrival at the base they discovered that no fuel was available.

The Sigonella base is designed as a naval air force base, lieutenant colonal Mats Brindsjö, head of the Swedish Air Operation Center, said.

"And US navy aircraft use somewhat different fuel to that which we use in our planes," he told the TT news agency.

The US fuel variety is known as JP5 while the Gripen normally fly using a civil fuel known as Jet A1.

"Certain additives and some equipment are needed to change JP5 to Jet A1 in a controlled manner. This equipment is not as yet in place down there and in the time being we are trying to buy the fuel from a place off the base."

"This really should have been investigated as soon as we arrived, but we didn't have time with all the other details," Mats Brindsjö said, adding that he expects the Gripen aircraft to be in the air on Friday.

The Swedish aircraft will undergo a test flight in order to familiarize themselves with the airspace before NATO authorities are informed that the Gripen stand at the ready.

Sweden is not a member of NATO, although it has been in NATO's

Partnership for Peace programme since 1994 and has contributed some 500 troops to the alliance's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) force in

Afghanistan.

Sweden also took part in operations in Kosovo.

Nevertheless Sweden's air force has not been involved in action since it

took part in a UN-mandated operation in the then Belgian Congo from 1961-63.

The Libyan operation will be the first combat tour for the JAS Gripen 39,

produced by the Swedish defence group Saab.

Sweden's Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway are already taking part in

Libyan air operations.

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