HELSINKI — Sweden’s government is expected to examine in the spring an Armed Forces Command (AFC) proposal covering a possible $5 billion upgrade for the Air Force’s 100 JAS Gripen multirole fighters.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has sought a cost appraisal from Saab, although the company says that it has not yet submitted a formal costing to the government.
The Gripen upgrade proposal was contained in the AFC’s proposition to the government in March 2011. This outlined how Sweden’s Air Force and air defenses could best be developed after 2020. The AFC’s submission noted that a decision on the Gripens was needed in order to plan for either upgrading or replacing the aging aircraft, adding that funding for a new project should begin to be incorporated into the annual defense budget no later than 2015.
The AFC is proposing to upgrade and develop an E/F version of the Gripen to ensure the fighter maintains its technological development capability and continues to operate up to 2040, and possibly beyond.
Avionics, sensors and radar will form a key part of any upgrade, as will improving the aircraft’s weapons-carrying capability and fuel tank capacity. Some 20 possible new configurations for a Gripen E/F version are being examined by Saab, the AFC and FMV, Sweden’s defense materials central procurement agency.
The upgrade proposal is regarded as a more cost-efficient option than funding a new fighter replacement program. The AFC advocates that the Air Force’s stock of C/D version Gripens be upgraded on a phased basis to spread the total cost over a five- to 10-year budgetary period.
The AFC views the impending government decision, which it anticipates will be made in March, as the most critical funding issue facing Swedish defense. A significant factor will be the AFC’s improved working relationship with government. This was underlined in 2011 when the MoD approved $900 million in new funding to strengthen the attack and tactical helicopter capability of the Air Force and Army by acquiring 15 Sikorsky Black Hawks.