On October 14, the Swedish Defence Ministry outlined a defense bill that covers an increase in the defence budget for 2021-2025 by over 40%. This is the largest increase in the defence capability of the country in 70 years. Among other things, the new bill, which is set to become a law by February 2021, will have a direct impact on the extension of service years (beyond 2030) of the Swedish Gripen C/D fighters.
The Swedish Air Force (SwAF or Flygvapnet) currently maintains six combat aircraft squadrons. Out of the six squadrons, four will be upgraded to the Gripen E fighters subsequently after their delivery. The other two squadrons will retain the Gripen C/D fighters which will be upgraded with the latest MS20 configuration and equipped with Meteor missile and GBU-39 small diameter bomb. Additionally, the bill also proposes to acquire new sensors for Gripen C which will replace its ageing SPK 39 pod for reconnaissance duties.
There are 60 Gripen E fighters currently on order for the Swedish Air Force, but there are estimations that the force will later comprise around 90-100 Gripen fighters.
“This represents the largest increase in the level of ambition in defense capabilities in 70 years,” said defense minister Peter Hultqvist, regarding the new defence bill. “It is a signal to the Swedish people and our neighborhood that we are taking the security situation extremely seriously. The proposals in the bill should be seen against the background of the deteriorating security situation in Sweden’s neighborhood and in Europe over time. Sweden will be affected if crisis or an armed conflict arises in our region. An armed attack against Sweden cannot be ruled out.”
The bill will also set the ball rolling on improving several elements across the Air Force including weapons, readiness and training, as well as increasing the number of military personnel to 90,000 from 60,000. The bill further sheds light on the Finland-Sweden cooperation regarding technological and operational development if Finland selects Gripen E for the HX Fighter Program.