Ukrainian Pilots Begin Testing Swedish JAS 39 Gripen Fighters. The evaluations by Ukrainian pilots could pave the way for future acquisition of the aircraft amid the ongoing war with Russia.
The test flights were revealed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. Zelensky indicated the Gripen assessments are the next step after previous agreement on pilot training between the countries.
Path to Receiving Gripens
According to Zelensky, the testing will help determine possibilities for Ukraine to receive the Swedish-designed jets. He plans further discussions with parliament members regarding securing Gripens to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses.
The 4th+ generation Gripen would significantly augment Ukraine’s fighter fleet consisting mostly of Soviet-era jets. The aircraft brings modern sensors, data links, and precision guided munitions like the Meteor and AMRAAM missiles to maintain Ukrainian air superiority over Russian forces.
Pilot Training Details
Back in May 2022, the Swedish Government decided to allow a group of Ukrainian airmen to be trained on the Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft. The announcement was made during a visit to Ukraine by Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson and Civil Defense Minister Karl Oskar Bohlin. President Zelenskyy thanked Sweden for launching an independent training program on the Gripen for Ukrainian pilots. While some formalities remain, the training will begin with simulators before progressing to flights.
This provides Ukraine a chance to evaluate the Gripen’s capabilities with future defense planning in mind. However, Sweden has declined to provide surplus Gripens, as its active fleet remains necessary for national defense.
In addition to flight testing, Ukrainian pilots will train on Gripen simulators according to Swedish Defense Minister Paul Johnson. This establishes a foundation of knowledge should Ukraine ultimately acquire the aircraft. The training involves experienced Ukrainian fighter pilots. Developing pilot expertise on the Gripen will be critical if transfers of the jets become reality.
The Gripen is a highly capable multirole fighter renowned for advanced electronics and flexible payload configurations. Key features include:
- High thrust-to-weight ratio for superb maneuverability
- Link 16 datalink connectivity
- Extensive air-to-ground attack capabilities
- Low operating costs
The latest E variant has extended range and cutting-edge sensors optimized for neutralizing threats. The Gripen’s capabilities would provide a substantial boost to Ukraine’s defenses.
Strengthening Ukraine-Sweden Ties
The Gripen assessments demonstrate growing defense ties between Ukraine and Sweden. They also highlight Ukraine’s need for modern fighters to counter Russia’s numerical advantage in aircraft.