No advanced fighter has specifications better suited to Ukraine’s needs than Sweden’s JAS 39 Gripen. Concerns have arisen about the suitability of the F-16 for Ukraine’s rough airfields — debris could be sucked into the fighters’ low-hanging air intakes. The Gripen would be a better fit due to its ruggedness.
Despite such concerns, Ukrainian pilots are training to fly the F-16s being supplied to Ukraine within the next three months.
Sweden’s government plans to ask its military to investigate the possibility of sending the planes to Ukraine. Currently, the E model is in service with Sweden and Brazil. The airframes cost $85 million apiece, and the model has a top speed of Mach 2.
It would take time to train Ukrainian pilots if the Swedish government decides to give the aircraft to Ukraine. It would likely not enter Ukrainian service until 2024.
The Gripen is considered among the most capable fourth-generation fighters in service today. Ukraine’s government reportedly plans to make a request for the jets as soon as Thursday and is expected to want a squadron of 16 to 18 planes.
RUSI: JAS 39 Gripen Best Suited Western Fighter for Ukraine
The JAS-39 was designed at the end of the Cold War to operate from roads in case a Soviet invasion neutralized Swedish airfields. It first entered service in 1996.
“It is worth noting that of the currently available Western fighter aircraft that could possibly be supplied, the Swedish Saab Gripen C/D offers by far the most suitable candidate in terms of operational requirements,” experts at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute wrote in a November 2022 analysis of Ukraine’s air-defense requirements.
“Conceptually,” the experts wrote, “the Swedish Air Force has always emphasized low-level air superiority tactics from dispersed bases, in a similar manner to how the Ukrainian Air Force currently operates, and so the Gripen was designed with ground support equipment and maintenance requirements compatible with that approach.”
The JAS 39 Gripen Relies on EW Capabilities
The Gripen boasts a robust electronic warfare package that makes it the next best thing to stealth.
“Gripen E/F comes with a combination of passive sensors as well as active jamming. The IRST, for example, does not emit signals and hence can track and identify targets without giving the aircraft’s position away,” Gripen manufacturer Saab says of the aircraft. “Located on the front of Gripen, the sensor is looking forward in a wide sector registering heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters, and from objects on the ground and sea surface.”
Saab boasts that the plane’s networked sensors allow it to handle the latest Russian fighter designs including the Su-57, and to counter anti-aircraft systems like the Russian S-400.
The fighter can land on snow-covered airstrips, and it takes 10-20 minutes to rearm and refuel the jet for its next mission. The plane is considered a short takeoff and landing aircraft and can take off from runways as short as 1,640 feet in length.
The JAS 39 is compatible with a variety of NATO ordnance. The list includes the IRIS-T, AIM-9 Sidewinder, A-Darter, MBDA Meteor, AIM-120 AMRAAM, MBDA MICA, AGM-65 Maverick, KEPD 350, RBS-15F, GBU-12 Paveway II, Mark 82, and GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, among others.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.
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