Tag: Sweden

Runestone’s

The Lingsberg Runestone, Sweden, known as U 240

A runestone is typically a raised stone with a runic inscription, but the term can also be applied to inscriptions on boulders and on bedrock. The tradition began in the 4th century and lasted into the 12th century, but most of the runestones date from the late Viking Age.

Most runestones are located in Scandinavia, but there are also scattered runestones in locations that were visited by Norsemen during the Viking Age. Runestones are often memorials to dead men. Runestones were usually brightly coloured when erected, though this is no longer evident as the colour has worn off.

An early runestone: the Möjbro Runestone from Hagby (first placed near Möjebro), Uppland, Sweden. As with other early runic inscriptions, (e.g. Kylver Stone from about 300–400 CE) this is written from right to left, while later Runestones were written from left to right.[citation needed] The text is “Frawaradaz anahaha is laginaz”.

History

The tradition of raising stones that had runic inscriptions first appeared in the 4th and 5th century, in Norway and Sweden, and these early runestones were usually placed next to graves. The earliest Danish runestones appeared in the 8th and 9th centuries, and there are about 50 runestones from the Migration Period in Scandinavia. Most runestones were erected during the period 950-1100 CE, and then they were mostly raised in Sweden, and to a lesser degree in Denmark and Norway.

The tradition is mentioned in both Ynglinga saga and Hávamál:

For men of consequence a mound should be raised to their memory, and for all other warriors who had been distinguished for manhood a standing stone, a custom that remained long after Odin’s time.

—The Ynglinga saga
A son is better,u
though late he be born,
And his father to death have fared;
Memory-stones
seldom stand by the road
Save when kinsman honors his kin.

Hávamál

What may have increased the spread of runestones was an event in Denmark in the 960s. King Harald Bluetooth had just been baptised and in order to mark the arrival of a new order and a new age, he commanded the construction of a runestone. The inscription reads

King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Þyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.

The runestone has three sides of which two are decorated with images. On one side, there is an animal that is the prototype of the runic animals that would be commonly engraved on runestones, and on another side there is Denmark’s oldest depiction of Jesus. Shortly after this stone had been made, something happened in Scandinavia’s runic tradition. Scores of chieftains and powerful Norse clans consciously tried to imitate King Harald, and from Denmark a runestone wave spread northwards through Sweden. In most districts, the fad died out after a generation, but, in the central Swedish provinces of Uppland and Södermanland, the fashion lasted into the 12th century.

The Snoldelev stone, one of the oldest runestones in Denmark.

Distribution

There are about 3,000 runestones among the about 6,000 runic inscriptions in Scandinavia. There are also runestones in other parts of the world as the tradition of raising runestones followed the Norsemen wherever they went, from the Isle of Man (Manx Runestones) in the west to the Black Sea in the east (Berezan’ Runestone), and from Jämtland in the north to Schleswig in the south.

The runestones are unevenly distributed in Scandinavia: Denmark has 250 runestones, Norway has 50 while Iceland has none. Sweden has as many as between 1,700 and 2,500 depending on definition. The Swedish district of Uppland has the highest concentration with as many as 1,196 inscriptions in stone, whereas Södermanland is second with 391.

Distribution of runestones in Sweden, the country with the highest density. Colour Key: Runestones / km2.

Effect of religion

In many districts, 50% of the stone inscriptions have traces of Christianity, but, in Uppland, which has the highest concentration of runic inscriptions in the world, about 70% of the 1,196 stone inscriptions are explicitly Christian, which is shown by engraved crosses or added Christian prayers, and only a few runestones are not Christian.

Scholars have suggested that the reason why so many Christian runestones were raised in Uppland is that the district was the focal point in the conflict between Norse paganism and the newly Christianized King of Sweden. It is possible that the chieftains tried to demonstrate their allegiance to the king and to display their Christian faith to the world and to God by adding Christian crosses and prayers on their runestones. What speaks against this theory is the fact that Norway, Denmark, and Götaland did not have any corresponding development in the runestone tradition. Moreover, not a single runestone declares that there was any relationship towards the king. Additionally, the runestones appear to show that the conversion was a rather peaceful process.

According to another theory, it was a social fashion that was popular among certain clans, but not among all of them. Once some clans in southern Uppland had begun to raise runestones, neighbouring clans emulated them. However, in parts where these clans were less influential, the runestone raising did not reach the same popularity. Several scholars have pointed out the long Viking expeditions and the considerable amassment of wealth in the district. At this time, Swedish chieftains near Stockholm had created considerable fortunes through trade and pillaging both in the East and in the West. They had seen the Danish Jelling stones or they had been inspired by Irish high crosses and other monuments.

The runestones show the different ways in which Christianity changed Norse society, and one of the greatest changes involved no longer burying the deceased on the clan’s grave field among his ancestors. Instead, he was buried in the cemetery of the church, while the runestone would serve as a memorial at the homestead, but for certain families, there was less change as they had churches built adjoining the family grave field.

The Stenkvista runestone in Södermanland, Sweden, shows Thor’s lightning hammer instead of a cross. Only two such runestones are known.

Inscriptions

The main purpose of a runestone was to mark territory, to explain inheritance, to boast about constructions, to bring glory to dead kinsmen and to tell of important events. In some parts of Uppland, the runestones also appear to have functioned as social and economical markers.

Virtually all the runestones from the late Viking Age make use of the same formula. The text tells in memory of whom the runestone is raised, who raised it, and often how the deceased and the one who raised the runestone are related to each other. Also, the inscription can tell the social status of the dead person, possible foreign voyage, place of death, and also a prayer, as in the following example, the Lingsberg Runestone U 241:

And Danr and Húskarl and Sveinn had the stone erected in memory of Ulfríkr, their father’s father. He had taken two payments in England. May God and God’s mother help the souls of the father and son.

Stone raisers

Most runestones were raised by men and only one runestone in eight is raised by a single woman, while at least 10% are raised by a woman together with several men. It is common that the runestones were raised by sons and widows of the deceased, but they could also be raised by sisters and brothers. It is almost only in Uppland, Södermanland, and Öland that women raised runestones together with male relatives. It is not known why many people such as sisters, brothers, uncles, parents, housecarls, and business partners can be enumerated on runestones, but it is possible that it is because they are part of the inheritors.

The Mask Stone (DR 66) found in Aarhus, Denmark commemorates a battle between two kings and features a stylized depiction of a mask.

Those commemorated

A vast majority, 94%, are raised in memory of men, but, contrary to common perception, the vast majority of the runestones are raised in memory of people who died at home. The most famous runestones and those that people tend to think of are those that tell of foreign voyages, but they comprise only c. 10% of all runestones, and they were raised in usually memory of those not having returned from Viking expeditions and not as tributes to those having returned. These runestones contain roughly the same message as the majority of the runestones, which is that people wanted to commemorate one or several dead kinsmen.

Expeditions in the East

The first man who scholars know fell on the eastern route was the East Geat Eyvindr whose fate is mentioned on the 9th century Kälvesten Runestone. The epitath reads:

Styggr/Stigr made this monument in memory of Eyvindr, his son. He fell in the east with Eivísl. Víkingr coloured and Grímulfr.

It is unfortunate for historians that the stones rarely reveal where the men died. On the Smula Runestone in Västergötland, we are informed only that they died during a war campaign in the East: “Gulli/Kolli raised this stone in memory of his wife’s brothers Ásbjôrn and Juli, very good valiant men. And they died in the east in the retinue”. Another runemaster in the same province laconically states on the Dalum Runestone: “Tóki and his brothers raised this stone in memory of their brothers. One died in the west, another in the east”.

The single country that is mentioned on most runestone is the Byzantine Empire, which at the time comprised most of Asia Minor and the Balkans, as well as a part of Southern Italy. If a man died in the Byzantine Empire, no matter how he had died or in which province, the event was mentioned laconically as “he died in Greece”. Sometimes an exception could be made for Southern Italy, which was known as the land of the Lombards, such as Inga’s Óleifr who, it is presumed, was a member of the Varangian Guard, and about whom the Djulafors Runestone in Södermanland says: “Inga raised this stone in memory of Óleifr, her … He ploughed his stern to the east, and met his end in the land of the Lombards.”

Other Norsemen died in Gardariki (Russia and Ukraine) such as Sigviðr on the Esta Runestone who his son Ingifastr reported had fled in Novgorod (Holmgarðr): “He fell in Holmgarðr, the ship’s leader with the seamen.” There were others who died not as far from home and it appears that there were close contacts with Estonia due to many personal names such as Æistfari (“traveller to Estonia”), Æistulfr (“Wolf of Estonians”) and Æistr (“Estonian”). One of the runestones that report of deaths in Estonia is the Ängby Runestone which tells that a Björn had died in Vironia (Virland).

There were many ways to die as reported by the runestones. The Åda Runestone reports that Bergviðr drowned during a voyage to Livonia, and the Sjonhem Runestone tells that the Gotlander Hróðfúss was killed in a treacherous way by what was probably a people in the Balkans. The most famous runestones that tell of eastern voyages are the Ingvar Runestones which tell of Ingvar the Far-Travelled’s expedition to Serkland, i.e., the Muslim world. It ended in tragedy as none of the more than 25 runestones that were raised in its memory tells of any survivor.

The Kälvesten Runestone, Sweden.

Expeditions in the West

Other Vikings travelled westwards. The Anglo-Saxon rulers paid large sums, Danegelds, to Vikings, who mostly came from Denmark and who arrived to the English shores during the 990s and the first decades of the 11th century. What may be part of a Danegeld has been found submerged in a creek in Södra Betby in Södermanland, Sweden. At the location, there is also a runestone with the text: “[…] raise the stone in memory of Jôrundr, his son, who was in the west with Ulfr, Hákon’s son.” It is not unlikely that the voyage westwards is connected with the English silver treasure. Other runestones are more explicit with the Danegelds. Ulf of Borresta who lived in Vallentuna travelled westwards several times, as reported on the Yttergärde Runestone:

And Ulfr has taken three payments in England. That was the last that Tosti paid. Then Þorketill paid. Then Knútr paid.

Tosti may have been the Swedish chieftain Skoglar Tosti who is otherwise only mentioned by Snorri Sturluson in Heimskringla and who Snorri reports to have been a “great warrior” who “was out for long periods of time on war expeditions”. Þorketill was Thorkell the Tall, one of the most famous Viking chieftains, and who often stayed in England. Knútr is no one else but Canute the Great, who became king of England in 1016.

Canute sent home most of the Vikings who had helped him conquer England, but he kept a strong bodyguard, the Þingalið. It was considered to be a great honour to be part of this force, and, on the Häggeby Runestone in Uppland, it is reported that Geiri “sat in the Assembly’s retinue in the west”, and the Landeryd Runestone mentions Þjalfi “who was with Knútr”. Some Swedish Vikings wanted nothing else but to travel with Danes such as Thorkell and Canute the Great, but they did not make it to their destinations. Sveinn, who came from Husby-Sjuhundra in Uppland, died when he was half-way to England, as explained on the runestone that was raised in his memory: “He died in Jútland. He meant to travel to England”. Other Vikings, such as Guðvér did not only attack England, but also Saxony, as reported by the Grinda Runestone in Södermanland:

Grjótgarðr (and) Einriði, the sons
made (the stone) in memory of (their) able father.
Guðvér was in the west;
divided (up) payment in England;
manfully attacked
townships in Saxony.

There are in total about 30 runestones that tell of people who went to England, see the England Runestones. Some of them are very laconic and only tell that the Viking was buried in London, or in Bath, Somerset.

The Djulafors Runestone, Sweden.

Conversion

Swedish men who travelled to Denmark, England, or Saxony and the Byzantine Empire played an important part in the introduction of Christianity in Sweden, and two runestones tell of men baptized in Denmark, such as the runestone in Amnö, which says “He died in christening robes in Denmark.” A similar message is given on another runestone in Vallentuna near Stockholm that tells that two sons waited until they were on their death beds before they converted: “They died in (their) christening robes.” Christening robes or baptismal clothes, hvitavaðir, were given to pagan Scandinavians when they were baptized, and in Uppland there are at least seven stones that tell of convertees having died in such robes.

The language used by the missionaries appears on several runestones, and they suggest that the missionaries used a rather uniform language when they preached. The expression “light and paradise” is presented on three runestones, of which two are located in Uppland and a third on the Danish island Bornholm. The runestone U 160 in Risbyle says “May God and God’s mother help his spirit and soul; grant him light and paradise.” and the Bornholm runestone also appeals to Saint Michael: “May Christ and Saint Michael help the souls of Auðbjôrn and Gunnhildr into light and paradise.”

Christian terminology was superimposed on the earlier pagan, and so Paradise substituted Valhalla, invocations to Thor and magic charms were replaced with Saint Michael, Christ, God, and the Mother of God. Saint Michael, who was the leader of the army of Heaven, subsumed Odin’s role as the psychopomp, and led the dead Christians to “light and paradise”. There are invocations to Saint Michael on one runestone in Uppland, one on Gotland, on three on Bornholm and on one on Lolland.

There is also the Bogesund runestone that testifies to the change that people were no longer buried at the family’s grave field: “He died in Eikrey(?). He is buried in the churchyard.”

The Valleberga Runestone, Sweden, reports that two Vikings had died in London.

Other types of runestones

Another interesting class of runestone is rune-stone-as-self promotion. Bragging was a virtue in Norse society, a habit in which the heroes of sagas often indulged, and is exemplified in runestones of the time. Hundreds of people had stones carved with the purpose of advertising their own achievements or positive traits. A few examples will suffice:

  • U 1011: “Vigmund had this stone carved in memory of himself, the cleverest of men. May God help the soul of Vigmund, the ship captain. Vigmund and Åfrid carved this memorial while he lived.”
    Frösö Runestone: “Östman Gudfast’s son made the bridge, and he Christianized Jämtland”
  • Dr 212: “Eskill Skulkason had this stone raised to himself. Ever will stand this memorial that Eskill made;”
  • U 164: “Jarlabanki had this stone put up in his own lifetime. And he made this causeway for his soul’s sake. And he owned the whole of Täby by himself. May God help his soul.”
    Other runestones, as evidenced in two of the previous three inscriptions, memorialize the pious acts of relatively new Christians. In these, we can see the kinds of good works people who could afford to commission runestones undertook. Other inscriptions hint at religious beliefs. For example, one reads:
  • U 160: “Ulvshattil and Gye and Une ordered this stone erected in memory of Ulv, their good father. He lived in Skolhamra. God and God’s Mother save his spirit and soul, endow him with light and paradise.”
    Although most runestones were set up to perpetuate the memories of men, many speak of women, often represented as conscientious landowners and pious Christians:
  • Sö 101: “Sigrid, Alrik’s mother, Orm’s daughter made this bridge for her husband Holmgers, father of Sigoerd, for his soul”
    as important members of extended families:
  • Br Olsen;215: “Mael-Lomchon and the daughter of Dubh-Gael, whom Adils had to wife, raised this cross in memory of Mael-Muire, his fostermother. It is better to leave a good fosterson than a bad son”
    and as much-missed loved ones:
  • N 68: “Gunnor, Thythrik’s daughter, made a bridge in memory of her daughter Astrid. She was the most skilful girl in Hadeland.”
The Kingittorsuaq Runestone from Greenland.

Imagery

Norse Legends

It appears from the imagery of the Swedish runestones that the most popular Norse legend in the area was that of Sigurd the dragon slayer. He is depicted on several runestones, but the most famous of them is the Ramsund inscription. The inscription itself is of a common kind that tells of the building of a bridge, but the ornamentation shows Sigurd sitting in a pit thrusting his sword, forged by Regin, through the body of the dragon, which also forms the runic band in which the runes are engraved. In the left part of the inscription lies Regin, who is beheaded with all his smithying tools around him. To the right of Regin, Sigurd is sitting and he has just burnt his thumb on the dragon’s heart that he is roasting. He is putting the thumb in his mouth and begins to understand the language of the marsh-tits that are sitting in the tree. They warn him of Regin’s schemes. Sigurd’s horse Grani is also shown tethered to the tree.

Another important personage from the legend of the Nibelungs is Gunnarr. On the Västerljung Runestone, there are three sides and one of them shows a man whose arms and legs are encircled by snakes. He is holding his arms stretched out gripping an object that may be a harp, but that part is damaged due to flaking. The image appears to be depicting an older version of the Gunnarr legend in which he played the harp with his fingers, which appears in the archaic eddic poem Atlakviða.

Norse myths

The Norse god who was most popular was Thor, and the Altuna Runestone in Uppland shows Thor’s fishing expedition when he tried to capture the Midgard Serpent. Two centuries later, the Icelander Snorri Sturluson would write: “The Midgarth Serpent bit at the ox-head and the hook caught in the roof of its mouth. When it felt that, it started so violently that both Thor’s fists went smack against the gunwale. Then Thor got angry, assumed all his godly strength, and dug his heels so sturdily that his feet went right through the bottom of the boat and he braced them on the sea bed.” (Jansson’s translation). The Altuna Runestone has also included the foot that went through the planks.

It appears that Ragnarök is depicted on the Ledberg stone in Östergötland. On one of its sides it shows a large warrior with a helmet, and who is bitten at his feet by a beast. This beast is, it is presumed, Fenrir, the brother of the Midgard Serpent, and who is attacking Odin. On the bottom of the illustration, there is a prostrate man who is holding out his hands and who has no legs. There is a close parallel from an illustration at Kirk Douglas on the Isle of Man. The Manx illustration shows Odin with a spear and with one of his ravens on his shoulders, and Odin is attacked in the same way as he is on the Ledberg stone. Adding to the stone’s spiritual content is a magic formula that was known all across the world of the pagan Norsemen.

On one of the stones from the Hunnestad Monument in Scania, there is an image of a woman riding a wolf using snakes as reins. The stone may be an illustration of the giantess Hyrrokin (“fire-wrinkled”), who was summoned by the gods to help launch Baldr’s funeral ship Hringhorni, which was too heavy for them. It was the same kind of wolf that is referred to as the “Valkyrie horse” on the Rök Runestone.

Odin attacked by Fenrir on the Ledberg stone, Sweden.

Colour

Today, most runestones are painted with falu red, since the colour red makes it easy to discern the ornamentation, and it is appropriate since red paint was also used on runes during the Viking Age. In fact, one of the Old Norse words for “writing in runes” was and it originally meant “to paint” in Proto-Norse (faihian). Moreoever, in Hávamál, Odin says: “So do I write / and colour the runes” and in Guðrúnarkviða II, Gudrun says “In the cup were runes of every kind / Written and reddened, I could not read them”.

There are several runestones where it is declared that they were originally painted. A runestone in Södermanland says “Here shall these stones stand, reddened with runes”, a second runestone in the same province says “Ásbjörn carved and Ulfr painted” and a third runestone in Södermanland says “Ásbjôrn cut the stone, painted as a marker, bound with runes”. Sometimes, the original colours have been preserved unusually well, and especially if the runestones were used as construction material in churches not very long after they had been made. One runestone in the church of Köping on Öland was discovered to be painted all over, and the colour of the words was alternating between black and red.

The most common paints were red ochre, red lead, soot, calcium carbonate, and other earth colours, which were bound with fat and water. It also appears that the Vikings imported white lead, green malachite and blue azurite from Continental Europe. By using an electron microscope, chemists have been able to analyse traces of colours on runestones, and in one case, they discovered bright red vermilion, which was an imported luxury colour. However, the dominating colours were white and red lead. There are even accounts where runes were reddened with blood as in Grettis saga, where the Völva Þuríðr cut runes on a tree root and coloured them with her own blood to kill Grettir, and in Egils saga where Egill Skallagrímsson cut ale runes on a drinking horn and painted them with his own blood to see if the drink was poisoned.

Preservation and care

The exposed runestones face several threats to the inscribed rock surface.

In Sweden, lichen grows at approximately 2 mm (116 in) per year. In more ideal conditions it can grow considerably faster. Many runestones are placed alongside roads and road dust causes lichen to grow faster, making lichen a major problem. The lichen’s small root strands break through the rock, and blast off tiny pieces, making the rock porous, and over time degrade the inscriptions. Algae and moss also cause the rock to become porous and crumble.

Water entering the cracks and crevices of the stone can cause whole sections to fall off either by freezing or by a combination of dirt, organic matter, and moisture, which can cause a hollowing effect under the stone surface.

Proper preservation techniques slow down the rate of degradation. One method to combat the lichen, algae and moss problem is to smear in fine grained moist clay over the entire stone. This is then left to sit for a few weeks, which suffocates the organic matter and kills it.

Sources

The Finnish Navy to participate in the Northern Coasts exercise in Sweden

Rauma-class Fast Attack Missile Boat

PRESS RELEASE:

The exercise Northern Coasts (NOCO-17) will be arranged between 8 September and 21 September 2017 in Sweden. The exercise is the German navy´s international invitation exercise for NATO and EU countries, as well as for NATO partner nations. The exercise is led by Sweden and there will be 16 participating countries.

The aim of NOCO-17 is to exercise the multinational command and control and how to act in crisis management operations. Activities related to international co-operation and command and control will be enhanced during the exercise. Finland´s participation in the exercise will support the goals and objectives of the Finnish-Swedish co-operation (FISE), with a view to obtaining common defense capabilities and co-operation in naval operations.

The exercise is divided into two phases, an initial phase and a tactical phase. During the first phase of the exercise, the units will be training in different fields of naval operations, such as maritime surveillance, surface warfare, anti-aircraft warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine hunting and clearing. During the tactical phase, the units will practice how to act in a fictitious, but realistic scenario in a multinational crises situation at sea. The exercise will be conducted in the waters around Gotland and in the southern Baltic Sea.

This year Finnish staff officers, conscripts and employed staff will participate in the exercise. Participating ships from Finland will be a Hämeenmaa class minelayer, a Rauma class fast attack missile craft and two Katanpää class minehunters. Staff officers from the Swedish-Finnish Task Group will continue the exercise within the framework of the exercise AURORA, which is the main war exercise of the Swedish Armed Forces this year. AURORA 17 will be conducted by the Finnish and Swedish navies and it will partly overlap with the NOCO-exercise.

The Finnish Navy participates in the Northern Coasts exercise according to its annual exercise plan. The NOCO exercises have been conducted since 2007 and Finland has participated every year.

Sweden hosting this year’s Baltic Sea exercise Northern Coasts

Northern Coasts 2016 participants sail in formation

Sweden will be hosting a total of 16 countries for the 2017 edition of the German Navy-sponsored exercise Northern Coasts 2017.

The international exercise is taking place between September 8 and 21 off Gotland and in the Southern Baltic Sea.

A general goal of the drill is to develop skills in maritime surveillance, anti-surface, anti-air, anti-submarine and mine counter-measures. At a tactical stage, a fictitious but realistic scenario will see participants respond to a multinational crisis in maritime areas.

Northern Coasts is a recurring exercise which has been taking place in the Baltic Sea since 2007. European naval ships will be operating in multiple task groups composed of up to seven ships from different nations.

The previous two editions of the exercise were hosted by Germany in 2015 and Denmark in 2016.

 

Sweden to Boost Defense Spending

Swedish army Srtidsvagn 122

The government and two parties in the center-right opposition have agreed to increase the defence spending with SEK 8,1 billion until 2020.

In 2015, five parties reached an agreement over defence and defence spending until 2020. But in the beginning of this year, those parties reopened talks to increase that budget, as a result of what was referred to as “the worsening security situation”.

The talks were supposed to have been finalized before the summer, but have been dragging on. After the parties met in the beginning of this week, the Christian Democrats announced that they were not happy with where the negotiations were going, and so would leave the talks.

Now, the government, made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party, has reached an agreement with the biggest opposition party in parliament, the conservative Moderate Party, and the Centre Party to increase the defence spending by SEK 2,7 billion per year between 2018 and 2020.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Bydén told the government that another SEK 9 billion would be needed until 2020, in order to fulfill the task set by the defence agreement from 2015.

At a press conference on Wendesday, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist thanked the Moderates, the Greens and the Centre Party for good co-operation during the negotiations.

“Continuity in Swedish defence and security policy is crucial,” said Hultqvist at the press conference.
The defence spokesperson of the Moderate Party, Hans Wallmark (M), said that this agreement is in line with what the Supreme Commander had demanded earlier this year. Wallmark said that it was thanks to his party that the increased spending was as high as it was.

“The alternative would have been zero or significantly lower sums,” Wallmark said.

In a comment on twitter on Wednesday, the leader of the Liberal Party, Jan Björklund, said: “The defence decision of 2015 was a) under-financed b) insufficient. Now the decision is fully financed, but Sweden’s defence is still insufficient.”

The Liberal Party left the talks already in 2015, in protest against the direction the talks were taking.

 

 

 

Sweden plans large joint military exercise with NATO

Swedish Sridsvagn 103 Amphibious Main Battle Tank.

The Swedish military has released a statement announcing plans to hold its largest joint military exercise in years with NATO members this September.

The exercise will be labeled Aurora 17 and will involve land, air, and sea elements of the Swedish military and participating NATO members.

It will count over 19,000 Swedish personnel and 40 government agencies, 1,435 troops from the U.S. and smaller contingents from France, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia.

A Finnish army Leopard 2A4 Tank Platoon.

“Through frequent and extensive training and exercise, especially with other defense forces, Sweden is strengthening its deterrence effect and makes it more credible,” the statement said.

There has been internal debate in Sweden and Finland concerning the possibility of joining NATO, and both have played higher profile roles in NATO summits. Russia’s increasing military assertiveness since its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatist rebels in Ukraine has raised concerns in neighboring countries and NATO.

Swedish army Stridsvagn 122, based on the German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia would see Sweden joining NATO as a serious encroachment and would demand a military response.

Aurora 17 will mark another in a string of increasingly large and elaborate military exercises taking place in the Baltics and eastern Europe.

Source: UPI.

 

Sweden, Finland, and NATO

The German Marshall Fund of the United States, By Christopher S. Chivvis, 30 June 2017

Burden-sharing and NATO’s role in counterterrorism have been at the forefront of discussions about the Alliance in recent months, but as NATO’s relations with Russia continue to trend downward, the issue of Sweden and Finland’s potential membership in the Alliance is likely to gain renewed salience. There are good reasons why both countries may eventually join the Alliance, but under current circumstances the best way forward is still for both countries to continue to draw closer to NATO. Linking their potential accession to the Alliance to Russia’s behavior offers NATO some leverage over Moscow. Additionally, NATO membership is not something that can be achieved overnight and the Alliance needs to be sure that if the pair joins the Alliance, the military requirements for their defense are fully understood and met beforehand.

The Baltic Sea region has received renewed attention in U.S. policy circles due to the deterioration in relations with Russia and broader concerns about the vulnerability of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to Russian aggression. The proximity of these countries to Russian forces in the Western Military District, combined with Russian deployments of advanced weapons systems to Kaliningrad oblast would make it difficult for the United States and NATO to defeat a committed Russian attack on the Baltic Allies without a sustained counteroffensive that could take months or even years.[1]

Kaliningrad Naval Base. Due to its location, Kaliningrad is an important geopolitical region for Russia.

Luckily, changes in U.S. and NATO posture in the region, especially the deployments coming as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence (EFP) and U.S. rotational forces,  are significantly strengthening regional collective defense by creating tripwires and raising the risks to Russia of any potential adventurism.[2] As the situation evolves, however, there are additional measures that the United States may wish to contemplate when it comes to the region, including further training and exercises, measures to improve situational awareness in the North Sea and along the Greenland, Iceland, and U.K. (GIUK) gap, the development of new weapons systems in areas where U.S. and NATO forces are currently outmatched by Russia, new foreign military sales that would strengthen deterrence, and further changes in posture.

In this context, the issue of potential Swedish and Finnish membership in the Alliance looms large. Sweden and Finland are already very important NATO partners; both countries are already enhanced opportunity partners (EOP), participate in the NATO response force (NRF), and exercise with the Alliance on a regular basis. From a U.S. perspective, they have  much to offer as strategic partners and military allies in general; as free-market democracies, both countries share the core political values on which NATO has been founded for 70 years. They also have advanced industrial economies with high-tech expertise and capabilities that have military significance in areas such as airpower, cyber, and civilian space. They are well-integrated members of the European Union, an important fact in an era when the EU and NATO need to draw closer together to strengthen cooperation against terrorism and other threats. Furthermore, other Nordic countries — specifically Norway, Denmark, and Iceland — are already NATO members. Finally, and perhaps most importantly from the perspective of the U.S. military, Sweden might serve an important role for basing aircraft in the event of a military crisis in the Baltic Sea region when the United States would need basing outside Russia’s Anti-AccessArea Denial (A2AD) bubble that extends from Kaliningrad and Western Russia over the Eastern Baltic Sea. Sea lanes of communication via the Danish straits might also be important for certain types of operations deeper into the Baltic Sea.

In light of these facts, some commentators have pushed hard for Sweden and Finland to join NATO. It is a consensus view among most experts that membership of one country implies membership of the other, or more specifically, that it would be difficult for Sweden to join the alliance if Finland were not to do the same.[3] The most compelling argument for pursuing NATO membership for the pair now is that waiting to do so could create a situation in which joining NATO creates a major crisis with Russia further down the line. (As one expert put it, join NATO “now while you don’t need to, because the circumstances that will make it necessary will also make it harder.”[4]

From a U.S. perspective, however, there are at least four other issues to consider before pushing hard for Swedish and Finnish membership in the Alliance:

First, membership in NATO is not something that can be achieved overnight. Finland and Sweden would have to undergo a potentially lengthy process of accession, during which the incentives for Russia to attack them would intensify. It would be preferable to ensure that they were well defended against any such attack prior to bringing them into the Alliance.

Second, and relatedly, from a strictly military perspective, bringing Finland into NATO is very different proposition militarily than bringing in a country such as Montenegro, which has no borders with Russia. The challenges involved in defending Finland’s 1,340 km eastern border should not be taken lightly. A credible defense of the Finnish border would likely require significant changes in posture beyond those already contemplated by the Alliance to strengthen deterrence in the Baltic states. Even if such changes were forthcoming, they would take time to implement, further exacerbating the risks from the time lag between proposed accession and Article 5 membership.

Third, adding any additional member comes at the cost of increasing complexity in an organization that is already struggling to achieve consensus on several important issues.  Although this may be a lesser order problem and should not in itself prevent new members from joining the Alliance, it is nevertheless a reality that ought to be weighed in the balance. Russia clearly benefits from lack of unity within NATO and anything that could further decrease unity should be given close examination.

Fourth, when it comes to deterring Russia from further aggression in the region, there may also be some benefit to leaving Swedish and Finnish NATO accession on the table, especially if it can be made clear to Moscow that further aggression will ultimately push the pair into the Alliance. In other words, linking Sweden and Finland’s disposition toward membership in the Alliance to the Kremlin’s future policies may offer the opportunity for some leverage over the Kremlin.

In light of this, the best policy for the time being is to continue to strengthen the political and especially military ties between these countries and NATO. There are several ways to do this: enhanced training and exercises; intensified staff exchanges; deeper cooperation on hybrid war and competition short of conflict, building on the Finnish Center for Excellence; encouraging continued deepening of sub-regional defense cooperation, for example through NORDEFCO (Nordic Defence Cooperation); pressing them for greater contributions to training, policing, and civilian reconstruction in countries where NATO has needs such as Libya and Iraq; involving them deeply in future NATO pooling and sharing programs, for example on tankers; considering missile defense cooperation; examining mechanisms for rapid membership in the event of a crisis.[5]

It is important to recognize that even if Sweden and Finland are outside of NATO, the United States and other NATO members might still come to their assistance in the event they were attacked. The pressure to do so would be less, of course, than if they were Article 5 members of the Alliance, but for strategic reasons pressure would exist none the less. By demonstrating their importance to the United States and their European partners, Sweden and Finland can further increase this dynamic, increasing the chances that NATO Allies would come to their aid in the event of a Baltic crisis. In this case, neither country would go so far as to have Article 5 membership in NATO, but the guarantee could become implicit in the reality of the deepening cooperation. This, in turn, would enhance deterrence.

Circumstances can of course change and eventually both countries may well become members of the Alliance. The current situation, however, in which they are gradually deepening ties in response to the threat they feel from the trajectory on which President Putin has put Russian foreign policy, is optimal. History has shown that it is crucial to bear both political and military factors in mind in considering accession to the Alliance. In the case of this pair, military ties should run ahead of formal political ties. This will avoid a situation in which NATO’s political commitments create military vulnerabilities.


[1] David A. Shlapak and Michael Johnson, Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016.

[2] For details see U.S. Army Europe, “U.S. Army Europe to Increase Presence Across Eastern Europe,” November 4, 2016.

[3] For example see Anna Weislander, “Can They Get Any Closer? The Case for Deepening the Partnerships between Sweden and Finland,” The Atlantic Council, October 12, 2016.

[4] Edward Lucas, “Why NATO Needs Sweden and Finland,” Europe’s Edge May 3, 2016.

[5] For more details, see Christopher S. Chivvis, et al., NATO’s Eastern Flank: Emerging Opportunities for Engagement, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 2017.

 

Special Forces in Focus: Sweden’s Särskilda operationsgruppen

Swedish Special Forces Särskilda Operationsgruppen.

The Baltic Post, 19 June 2017

Särskilda Operationsgruppen (English: Special Operations Task Group, abbreviated (SOG) is a special forces unit within the Swedish Armed Forces which has been active since 2011. The unit is headquartered at Karlsborg Fortress in Karlsborg, Västra Götaland County.

Särskilda operationsgruppen was formed in 2011 by merging the Special Protection Group (SSG) and the Special Reconnaissance Group (SIG).

The Special Operations Task Group (SOG) answers directly to the Supreme Commander and the Director Special Forces. The unit, combined with the Special Forces Command, comprises the Swedish Armed Forces Special Forces (FM SF). In addition to this, there are several special forces support units (FM SOF). The personnel are specially selected, trained and equipped units for air, sea and land transportation, technical, logistical and medical support. For example: Special Maritime Transportation unit (STE), Special Signals Group (SSE) and the Section for Special Operative Technology (SOT).

SOG consists of two so-called response units (IE). IE1 focuses on combat tasks (Direct Action) and IE2 focuses on intelligence gathering (Special Reconnaissance). The requirements to IE2 are slightly lower than for IE1. In IE2 there are also female intelligence operators.

What most people see of the operators is when they are employed as personal protection for the Supreme Commander or other high-ranking officers of the Swedish Armed Forces when they visit Swedish areas of operation. However, their most frequent usage is during multi-national special operations such as Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance and Military Assistance.

SOG combat operations are of great strategic importance that cannot be accomplished by conventional forces or weapon systems. Combat missions can be to eliminate high-value targets or objects of great importance to the enemy, to conduct complex rescue operations of Swedish personnel held captive or hostage, or to gather time-critical intelligence through action.

Special reconnaissance and intelligence gathering is intended to gather information of great tactical importance about the enemy´s activities, enemy personnel or other bits of information of operational significance.

Special Forces can also be tasked with advising and training foreign military units as part of an international peace-keeping military operation.

The unit maintains a high degree of readiness and can be deployed on short notice within a 6000 km radius of Stockholm and can operate in any environment, for example jungle, desert, mountain/alpine, sub-arctic and urban. The unit is deployed on request by the UN, EU or NATO but must then be sanctioned on a political level.

The unit is lightly equipped for greater mobility, both tactically and strategically. SOG strive for simplicity in planning and execution, and unpredictability through unconventional and flexible methods.

Due to operational security, the unit’s capabilities, equipment, operational methods, previous or on-going operations and the identities of their personnel are classified.

The SOG’s predecessors, the SSG and SIG, participated in operations in the Balkans, Congo, Tchad and the Central African Republic. Swedish special forces has also been continuously deployed in Afghanistan from the beginning of the conflict up until the withdrawal of ISAF forces in 2014. From 2015 a contingent of around 30 operators from the SOG along with its support units has been participating in Operation Inherent Resolve, acting as trainers for Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

Särskilda operationsgruppen on patrol.

Each operator has a broader skill base than regular soldiers and one or two patrol skills at which he or she is exceptionally skilled. A typical SOG team consists of four operators: A team leader, a demolitions expert, a radio operator and a combat medic. Each patrol can be augmented with, EOD technicians, JTAC-specialists or snipers.

Selection is open for Armed Forces members of both sexes who are at least eligible for specialist officer’s training and can only be attempted once unless mitigating circumstances caused the candidate to fail on the first attempt.

The candidates are advised to prepare themselves at least six months prior to the selection course and are invited to attend a pre-selection weekend where they will be tested and advised on their likelihood of success or failure and also where they need to improve.

The selection process takes two weeks and is held once a year. Historically, candidates for SOG´s predecessor, the SSG were sought out by the unit and invited to attempt selection. Selection for SOG however, is advertised on the Armed Forces website and is open for anyone who meets the basic requirements. The part of selection consists of an extremely grueling field exercise, stretching over more than a week, where the candidates are tested on their fitness, field craft and land navigation and the tests are conducted during great stress. The second week consists of psychological tests, similar to those undertaken by fighter pilots. They are also tested for their predisposition for phobias, such as heights and confined spaces. If the candidate is successful, he will begin the basic operator course which lasts for 12 months and is divided into three blocks:

  • Basic combat skills
  • Patrol skills
  • Special skills course

Once completed, the operator will be put in an operational team and can be deployed with the unit.

Personnel applying to join the unit as EOD or JTAC operators undergo the same selection process as the normal operators, but do a shorter 8 month basic operator course, after which they continue with specialist training in the EOD or JTAC function.

Operators train at their own compound at a secret location near Karlsborg, which, among shooting ranges, also features a large multi-story CQB-building, with bullet-absorbing lining in its walls. The building also facilitates helicopter insertions on its roof.

Särskilda Operationsgruppen, Special RECON Unit.

The SOG coat of arms is blazoned thusly: Upon a black shield is a six-pointed star in silver in the upper left corner. It was developed by the Armed Forces Board of Traditions and symbolizes the unit´s ability of un-conventional problem solving, effectiveness of duty and clandestine operations, and the asymmetrically positioned star symbolises asymmetric warfare.

The unit insignia, worn by each operator on the combat uniform consists of a winged Norse dagger (Seax) with an asymmetrically positioned six-pointed star.

Personnel within the Swedish Special Operations Forces, SOG and its support units also wear an olive green beret with a black, embroidered cap badge, the only non-metal cap badge within the Swedish Armed Forces.

Saab’s Gripen E takes its first flight [VIDEO]

Saab JAS 39 Gripen E, on it’s maiden flight yesterday.

DefenseNews, By: Valerie Insinna, June 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — Saab’s next generation Gripen made its first flight on Thursday, marking a huge milestone for the aircraft on its way toward the 2019 delivery of the first jet.

According to Saab, the Gripen E took off at 10:32 a.m. local time from Saab’s airfield in Linköping, Sweden, and flew over Östergötland for about 40 minutes before landing. During the flight, the company pilot tested a number of systems, including the ability to raise and lower its landing gear.

“The flight was just as expected, with the aircraft performance matching the experience in our simulations. Its acceleration performance is impressive with smooth handling. Needless to say, I’m very happy to have piloted this maiden flight,” said Marcus Wandt, the Saab test pilot who flew the aircraft.

Gripen E’s first flight comes just before the start of Paris Air Show, which runs from June 19-25. Saab currently has customers for the aircraft in the Swedish and Brazilian air forces, but today’s flight could help create further confidence in the jet as Saab meets with potential buyers at Le Bourget. Richard Smith, Saab’s head of Gripen marketing, told reporters in May that ongoing fighter competitions in Belgium and Finland are considered to be potential opportunities for the Gripen E.

The Gripen E’s first flight was initially scheduled to occur in 2016, however Saab delayed it for six months to allow it to qualify its software. Company officials in May noted that they believed the decision was the right one and would help remove risk from the flight test plan.

Jonas Hjelm, Saab’s head of its aeronautics business unit, reiterated the importance of finishing software qualification in a written statement.

“Today we have flown this world class fighter aircraft for the first time. We achieved it with the fully qualified software for the revolutionary avionics system,” he said. “This is about giving our customers a smart fighter system with the future designed in from the start.”

The Swedish Air Force has committed to a purchase of 60 E models, and Brazil is on order for 36 jets, including eight twin-seat F versions. Officials from both nations have acknowledged the potential for further buys. Deliveries for both Sweden and Brazil start in 2019.

GOTLAND: Sweden’s Fortified Baltic Island

Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, is located in the Baltic sea between Sweden and Latvia, and represents the most strategically important defensive stronghold in the entire Baltic region. The Swedish government decided in March 2015 to begin reestablishing a permanent military presence on Gotland, starting with an initial 150 troop garrison, consisting primarily of elements from the Swedish Army. It has been reported that the bulk of this initial garrison will make up a new motorised rifle battalion, alternatively referred to in other reports as a “modular-structured rapid response Army battalion”. A later report claimed that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and an Air Force “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to also be based on the island to support the new garrison and further reinforce the defences. Prior to the disbandment of the original garrison, there had been a continuous Swedish military presence on Gotland in one form or another, for nearly 200 years.

Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.
Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.

The original Gotland garrison, also known as the Visby Garrison, could trace its roots back to at least 1811. That was the year the Gotland National Conscription was formed to strengthen the islands defences after the Russians had briefly occupied the island two years before. Although, the “new” garrison was just the latest in a long line of Swedish military forces protecting the island, and consequently the rest of Sweden, continuously since the 1640s. The exception being the 23 days when Russia occupied the island during the Finnish War (1808–1809), after Gotland had been left undefended due to errors in overall Swedish strategy early in the war.

In 1887, a new country wide conscription system replaced a number of previous regional recruitment and reserve systems, including the Gotlands nationalbeväring (the Gotland National Recruitment) The existing regiment defending Gotland under that system was reorganized into two new regiments, the Gotland Infantry Regiment and the Gotland Artillery Regiment. Those two units would go on to provide the bulk of the garrison forces both directly and indirectly, throughout the various crisis that threatened to overtake Sweden (including two World Wars and the Cold War), for most of the next two centuries right up to the final dissolution of the garrison in 2005.

From 1811 to 1873, the commander of military forces on Gotland (at that time, effectively a military district in its own right) also served as the governor of the island and during the existence of the Gotland National Conscription (1811–1892) the commander was by default the senior officer of that regiment. Under the military reorganisation of 1892, the then commander and his successors (up until 1937) automatically became the senior officer of the Gotlands infanteriregemente that succeeded the Gotlands nationalbeväring. He remained in charge of army troops on the island, even though Gotland was no longer the center of a military district under the new 5 area (district) system which lasted up to shortly before World War II.

During World War II, Gotland was part of both the VII Military area [area=army district] (from 1942) and the Gotland Naval District, both of which the senior military officer on the island acted as head of. Army and air force units assigned to Gotland came under the former, while naval, marine, and coast artillery units based on/out of Gotland came under the jurisdiction of the latter. With a change in the Naval Districts (see naval section below) in 1957, the commanding officer lost his maritime responsibilities, but regained them in the 1966 military reorganisation that created the Gotland Military Command (the Gotlands militärkommando), or MKG, and which changed the VII. Military area into the new expanded Eastern Military District or Milo Ö (also known as Milo Z) which was now headquartered out of Södermanland.

gotland-bunker
World War II era Kulsprutebunker (Machine gun bunker) located near Brucebo, Gotland County.

This command structure continued relatively unchanged until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when Milo Ö was stood down in 1991. The MKG remained operational into 2000, albeit increasingly downgraded in importance despite concerns,with a corresponding steady reduction in the units and capabilities under the MKG. In the now discredited Swedish Defence reform of that year, the MKG was replaced with the, in theory, autonomous Gotlands Military District (the Gotlands militärdistrikt) or MDG, which despite its name, only had control over the island itself (that control was also severely constrained by the existence of the, later infamous, post-Cold War Swedish Fortifications Agency). In practise this meant the MDG was responsible for overseeing the Army garrison units remaining on the island, along with coordinating with any reserve and civil defense elements still in place. There were, and as of 2015  still are, no maritime or coastal defense units remaining on the island, with the exception of a couple of naval units that did not come under the new MDG and which in any case were withdrawn in 2004. The MDG was stood down in December 2004, with the remaining garrison forces being abolished in 2005.

Alongside the Swedish Army, the Swedish Navy have played a major role in the garrisoning of the island over the last two centuries; not only helping to defend the island but also using it as a well placed base to defend Sweden and its interests in the Baltic Sea. Prior to (from 1931) and during World War II, Gotland was the headquarters of the Gotland Naval District. In 1957, during the Cold War, Gotland became part of the (now defunct) Sound Naval District, headquartered at the Muskö naval base. The Sound Naval District itself came under the new joint Eastern Military District in 1966, with operational control of naval units (including coastal defense forces) in the area of the former Gotland Naval District being returned to the commanding officer of the new MKG centered on Gotland.

In the early part of the Cold War (late 1940s to late 1950s), elements of one of the three major task forces that then made up the navy’s front line strength, including cruisers and destroyers, were based out of Gotland’s various anchorages and harbours. This was in addition to locally based elements of the Coastal Artillery’s significant support fleet, which included coastal minelayers, inshore minesweepers, and patrol craft. However, in 1958, a doctrinal switch from heavier surface combatants to smaller ASW combatants (increasingly corvette sized and smaller) and Fast Attack Craft began with most of the former being retired without replacement. The operations of these new combatants were still coordinated with submarines though, which, along with the fact that some major combatants weren’t immediately retired (e.g. the two Halland-class destroyers), ironically helped to disguise the problems with relying so heavily on light combatants in the short term. In the late 1960s, this shift towards lighter types accelerated, though more for political and economic reasons than military.

For Gotland, this meant that the naval units based out of the island by the 1970s were mostly light combatants such as FACs with relatively short range, though there were still a few larger corvettes mixed in. Submarines were generally not based out of Gotland at this point, being housed in purpose built bases such as Muskö, though they still made port visits.

By the early 1980s, flaws with the “FAC based doctrine” had become impossible to ignore, with incidents such as the so-called Whiskey on the rocks confrontation proving that the Swedish Navy had become outgunned in the Anti-surface warfare arena, and that even in areas where it should have had a local advantage in such as Anti-Submarine Warfare it was materially outmatched by potential aggressors, with intruding submarines able to breach Swedish waters almost at will.

In the short term, the navy and government attempted to address these issues with various emergency measures and programs, such as the hasty revamping of the Ytattack-81 (the Surface combatant-81) project into what would become the Stockholm corvette program. Another hastily introduced program was the construction of four new heavy coastal missile batteries based around the Rb-15 missile, one of which was placed on Gotland. Delivery and installation of the systems was to take place from 1987 to 1992. Existing installations such as coastal gun batteries and mine stations were continuously upgraded. In the longer term, among the new programs that were started in the late 1980s were two to provide replacements for various FAC and corvette classes; the Ytstridsfartyg Mindre (the Surface Combatant Small) and the Ytstridsfartyg Större (the Surface Combatant Large) programs. In the post-Cold War cutbacks of the early 1990s, those two programs were merged into a single program, the YS2000 (the Surface Combatant 2000) program, that later became the Visby-class stealth corvette. Originally, it was planned to have a class of 10 in two variants; the ASuW/Anti-Air ‘Series II’ and a lower cost ASW dedicated ‘Series I’. Finally, only four Series Is and a single Series II were built in the 2000s (with a second Series II being cancelled), and even those were not fully manned or equipped as part of further economy measures to support other non-defence areas. As a result of this reduction in class size being decided on in the late 1990s, plans for some of the Visby-class corvettes to be based out of Gotland were scrapped. This was against a background of severe cutbacks for the navy at that time, which would continue into the 2010s. Those cutbacks apparently also led to the cancellation, just prior to the disbanding of all coastal defence units on Gotland, of plans to install elements of the KAFUS coastal/underwater surveillance network in and around the island.

In an echo of events from over 60 years earlier, the navy would lose its Marinflyget in 1998, with its helicopter units being absorbed by the air force’s new ‘joint’ Helikopterflottiljen (Helicopter Wing) (the Army also losing its helicopters to this new wing). The air force then promptly retired the former navy ASW helicopters without any immediate replacement.

Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 - HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.
Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 – HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.

The resulting lack of ASW helicopters, along with the operationally incomplete state of the Visby-class corvettes, were issues that would become apparent just under a decade and a half later, during the ‘October 2014 Submarine incident’ when the military made a prolonged search without any public results, for alleged underwater activity.

Swedish Air Force elements have operated from the island since the late 1920s. The Swedish Air Force was created by the amalgamation of the air arms of both the army and the navy in 1926. The formation of the new air force would leave the navy without an air branch until it was reestablished in the late 1950s with the navy’s first helicopters. Swedish Naval aviation had already established a major presence on the island in the late 1910s, so the air force was able to take over or share some facilities with the navy, as well as building ones of its own, such as the Bunge and Roma airfields in the late 1930s. By the outbreak of World War II, the Flygvapnet was well established on Gotland. The air force’s general wartime strategy in regards to Gotland was primarily based around bombers, in particular 20 B-17s based at Bunge airfield and seaplane torpedo bombers out of Fårösund. The intention was to use them against enemy ships in the support of the navy and coastal defence units (including both gun batteries and minefields), that were the islands first line of defence against an invasion. The air force also had fighters and reconnaissance aircraft based on the island to further support the island’s defence, the latter also including seaplanes.

Even into the Jet Age, and the Cold War, the Swedish Air Force insisted on remaining being able to operate from semi-prepared airstrips and dispersed emergency airfields, which influenced its equipment development and procurement choices greatly along with the development of tactics and strategies. This allowed the air force major flexibility in its role of defending Gotland and the rest of Sweden against intruders. In some respects, this flexibility made the air force more capable than most NATO member air-forces who, especially before the advent of such aircraft as the Harrier and the A-10, were arguably over reliant on permanent airbases and long concrete runways, unlike their Soviet foes, who put in at least as much effort as Sweden into being able to disperse and operate their tactical aircraft from semi-prepared airstrips and other temporary or semi-permanent locations, including those based around specially strengthened stretches of road.

For Gotland, this meant the air force was not only able to operate out of Visby Airport (especially after its BAS-60 upgrade in 1968) and its existing airfields such as Bunge and Roma, but also from semi-prepared sites such as the Visby 1 and Visby 2 highway strips, which were officially classified as dispersed emergency (wartime) airfields as per Sweden’s general overall Cold War doctrine.

Apart from the threat of direct Soviet aggression against Gotland and the rest of Sweden, another potential wartime problem was to increasingly weigh on the minds of both the island’s defenders and Sweden’s politicians: cruise missile transits. In the event of an all out war, the airspace of neutral Sweden was seen by both NATO and Warsaw Pact planners as a possible handy shortcut for the flight paths of cruise missiles that both sides were developing, and in the case of the United States had already deployed, during the 1980s. The airspace in and around Gotland was one of the areas of Sweden seen as especially vulnerable to transit by cruise missiles en-route to their targets. A particular worry in Sweden in the early 1980s was that the US would program some of their new nuclear armed cruise missiles to fly through Swedish airspace on their way to targets in the Soviet Union. This was seen as a violation of the country’s neutrality, so Sweden officially stated that it would be obliged to shoot down any such missiles that were fired over Swedish territory in wartime. In light of this policy a number of major anti-cruise missile exercises were held by Sweden during the 1980s, at least one of which was held in and around the island. As the decade went on, fears grew that the Soviet Union would be at least just as likely to violate Sweden’s neutrality in this manner; such fears regarding the two superpowers were only partially eased by the advent of the (defunct as of 2014) INF Treaty.

Late 1980s plans to reinforce the air cover over Gotland, including one for the reactivation and deployment to the island of an additional J-35 Draken squadron to take place in the early 1990s, were to be overtaken by world events such as the Revolutions of 1989 and the Soviet dissolution.

After the end of the Cold War, the air force’s presence on Gotland had rapidly diminished to practically nothing by 1992, with the final withdrawal of deployed elements of the F13 Wing including a Saab 37 Viggen fighter detachment from Visby Airport. This was a direct result of the initial cutbacks by Swedish politicians seeking the peace dividend in order to, among other things, to fund increasingly costly social programs in an economic downturn (in part caused by the fall of the Soviet Union). Due to this, the Bunge airfield was closed in 1991. The Roma airfield had been deactivated in 1988. In the intervening years, the air force has been absent from Gotland, with only the occasional transport or support aircraft (such as ASC 890 Airborne early warning and control) making visits to Visby Airport as part of an exercise or similar.

In the 2010s, the relatively dilapidated state of the county’s defences had to be addressed by the Swedish government, with a newly resurgent Russia stepping up probes of Sweden’s defences alongside those of her neighbours with both air and sea incursions. The most noted of these to date occurred in March 2013, when two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M nuclear capable bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27, were able to enter Swedish controlled airspace unimpeded and simulate strikes against targets in and around Stockholm with the Swedish Air Force unable to effectively respond at any time during the incident. During their operation, the Russian aircraft skirted around Gotland. In the aftermath of this highly controversial failure to avert the intruders, the air force for the first time in many years deployed a detachment of four Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters to Visby Airport. This short lived deployment was followed by another smaller one the following year, consisting of two Gripens. However, because of their strictly limited nature, these deployments were seen by observers as unsuccessful PR exercises rather than a coherent response. By the close of 2014, Swedish public confidence in the government’s ability to defend the country had dropped to 20% or lower, depending on the poll. This was a continuation of a general trend that could be traced back to even before the Stockholm incident, but which had rapidly worsened in its aftermath.

JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.
JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.

In late March 2015, it was reported that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and a “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to be based on Gotland in order to support the new garrison and further reinforce the island’s defences.

In April 2015, a decision was made to reestablish troops permanently on Gotland within three years. The recruitment started in September 2015. The Battlegroup Gotland is to consist of 300 personnel, half of which are soldiers and half a permanent staff. As of 2016, the main issue of where to house the battle group was still unresolved. The barracks in Visby formerly owned and used by Gotland Regiment were evacuated and sold to a private company in 2006. Since 2006, the property is used by the Gotland County Administration and several private companies.

The re-militarization of Gotland once again reopened the debate about a possible threat to Sweden from Russia and Sweden’s accession to NATO.

The Battlegroup Gotland (18th Battlegroup) will fall under administrative control of the Skaraborg Regiment, which will also train the troops destined for Gotland. The battlegroup will be based at the Tofta firing range near Visby and will field 301 men.

18th Battlegroup (18. Stridsgruppen):

  • 180th Staff Company “Havdhem”
  • 181st Armored Infantry Company “Roma” with 12x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicles, 1x Bgbv 90 armored recovery vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 183rd Tank Company “Lärbro” with 11x Stridsvagn 122 main battle tanks, 1x Epbv 90 forward observation vehicle, 1x Bgbv 120 armored recovery vehicle, 1x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 185th Logistic Company “Garde”

In the meantime, before the 18th Battlegroup is ready for deployment on Gotland (originally scheduled to begin in 2018), it was hoped that a combination of an increase in training rotations by mainland based regular army units to the Tofta range, combined with some rather public exercises around the island by the Särskilda operationsgruppen since late 2015, would be enough to discourage any Russian adventurism.

Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT
Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT

However by Autumn 2016, the regional situation was considered to have deteriorated even further. So much so that following representations from the current Supreme Commander Micael Bydén, the Swedish Government reluctantly agreed that Gotland’s defences would have to be reestablished on a much shorter timescale than previously mooted (despite ongoing major divisions within the current ruling parties with regards as to the strategy & resources required to defend Sweden). To this end, the Supreme Commander announced on the 14th of September 2016 that not only would the deployment of the 18th Battlegroup to Gotland would be moved up to the first half of 2017, but also a rifle battalion from the Skaraborg Regiment which was then in the middle of a training rotation at Tofta, would now be held in place on Gotland as a interim garrison. A few Giraffe 40s normally on the strength of the Luftvärnsregementet (Lv 6) are to be attached to the battalion to provide some early warning capability. Despite this though, neither air defence vehicles such as the Luftvärnskanonvagn (lvkv) 9040, nor MANPADS have been attached to the garrison battalion to take advantage of this local radar coverage.

The plan is to within a few months relieve the battalion with another battalion or a equivalent formation, which will then remain in place until the 18th Battlegroup is ready to take up it’s posting.

Reference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The SAAB JAS 39 Gripen E (NG), The Future Fighter for Finland?

Saab JAS 39 Gripen E (NG)
Saab JAS 39 Gripen E (NG)

Gripen is a unique fighter concept, bringing a perfect balance between excellent operational performance, high-tech solutions, cost-efficiency and industrial partnership into one, smart fighter system. That is why it is referred to as “The smart fighter”. But what does the Gripen E offer? And will it fulfill the requirements for Finland’s next generation of combat aircraft?

The next generation Gripen, the Gripen E, is built to adapt to changing threats and operational requirements that modern air forces face.

Based on the proven Gripen C/D platform, the Gripen E (also referred to as Gripen E/F) carries this heritage and continues to be one of the most advanced multi-role fighters in the world – revolutionary because it combines advanced technology and operational effectiveness in an affordable package that no other fighter aircraft can even hope to match.

TRUE MULTI-ROLE FIGHTER

Gripen E is a fully NATO-interoperable, true multi-role fighter with outstanding availability, tailored for the future Network Centric Warfare (NCW) environment. Gripen E will meet the demanding operational requirements of the 21st century air forces and its unrivalled multi-role capability provides excellent tactical flexibility.

OPERATIONAL DOMINANCE

Gripen E offers operational dominance and flexibility with superior mission survivability. Air-to-air superiority is guaranteed with METEOR, AMRAAM, IRIS-T, AIM-9 missile capability and supercruise. Air-to-surface capability is assured through the use of the latest generation precision weapons and targeting sensors. Gripen E’s superior situation awareness is ensured through an AESA radar, IRST passive sensor, HMD, cutting-edge avionics, next generation data processing and a state-of-the-art cockpit.

AGM-65 Armed Gripen Es
AGM-65 Armed Gripen Es

NETWORK CENTRIC WARFARE

Together with proven Network Centric Warfare capabilities including advanced data communications, dual data links, satellite communications and video links, make Gripen E the ideal independent fighter of choice. On-board sensors, in combination with HMD/NVG, deliver the ability to detect and destroy a wide variety of targets, even at night or in poor weather conditions.

A fighter mission can be compared to large scale chess games, where the fighter allows you to get the right situation awareness in order to communicate the right information to take the adequate decision. The same analogy to chess games applies regardless if the mission to perform is air-to-air, reconnaissance or air-to-ground. In all the case the fighter needs the following:

  • Information
  • Movements
  • Weapons

The Gripen E fighter is equipped with the latest available technics in those keys areas. Here we present some of the features that make the Gripen E -The Smart Fighter.

Gripen E AESA Radar
Gripen E AESA Radar
Gripen NG AESA Radar - SELEX ES-05 RAVEN
Gripen NG AESA Radar – SELEX ES-05 RAVEN
  • AESA stands for Active Electronically Scanned Array and means that, in contrast to older generation radars, it has not only one antenna but a full array of small antennas, called elements. This means that the radar can simultaneously and independently track different targets, and also track targets independently of search volumes.
Gripen NG IRST
Gripen NG IRST
  • IRST an electro-optical system mounted on top of the nose, just in front of the canopy, and is looking forward in a wide sector registering heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters and from objects on the ground and sea surface. The tactical advantage of a passive sensor is that it will not give your position away.
Gripen NG Electronic Warfare System.
Gripen NG Electronic Warfare System.
  • The highly advanced EW system can function as a passive or active sensor, warning for incoming missiles or radar looking at you. It can also be used for electronic attacks and jamming other radars. Coupled to the countermeasure such as chaff and flares the EW system can enhance the survivability.
  • Almost any weapon can be integrated, giving Gripen E very high weapon flexibility. This is partly due to the flexible avionic architecture. Because of its well-documented ease of new weapon integration, Gripen served as the main test platform for Meteor, the latest long range air to air missile.
  • Gripen E is a Network Centric fighter and can communicate two ways with all armed units. It has a secure and multi-frequency data links system that provides total situation awareness. The acquired information – along with information about each Gripen’s position, fuel and weapon status – is shared with other Gripen fighters via the data link.
  • Gripen E is built for high survivability in a combat environment. Gripen tactics are based on smart use of a variety of electronic warfare capabilities. The RWR (Radar Warning Receiver) is the source for an accurate sensor for detecting emitting threats such as radar. And the Missile Approach Warning (MAW) system can detect and track incoming missiles of all types.

Technical details for Gripen E

Length over all 15.2 meters
Width over all 8.6 meters
Maximum take-off weight 16500 kg
Max thrust 98 kN
Hardpoints 10
Maximum speed Mach 2 (Supercruise)
Combat turnaround air-to-air 10 minutes

Battlefield network

The Gripen data link system (TIDLS), along with a Link 16 or National Data Link provide the following capabilities:

  • Data link within the Tactical Air Unit
  • Data link between Gripen E, AEW&C and C2 centries on ground or at sea
  • Data link with Forward Air Controller.
Gripen NG Communications and Data Links
Gripen NG Communications and Data Links

MULTI-ROLE CAPABILITY

Gripen E has weapons for all types of mission, from guided glide bombs for precision engagement with low collateral damage, to long-range and agile air-to-air missiles and heavy anti-ship armaments. Additionally, the aircraft has an inherent precision strike and stand-off capability.

The single-seat Gripen E is equipped with a 27 mm Mauser BK27 gun. This can be used in air-to-surface attacks against land and sea targets and is suitable for air policing missions. Gripen NG can also carry pods and sensors for reconnaissance and special missions. These include Litening, Reccelite, DJRP and MRPS pods.

It is one of the easiest aircraft of its kind to add new weapons to. This makes it a favourite among weapons companies as they can quickly and easily use Gripen for development. For example, it was selected for testing the Meteor missile. This benefits users, as new armaments are available to them more quickly compared to other aircraft.

Gripen NG Multi-Role Weapons Package
Gripen NG Multi-Role Weapons Package (click to enlarge)

The Gripen NG was ordered in 2007 as a testbed for various upgrades. It was powered by the General Electric F414G, a development of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet’s engine. The Gripen NG’s maximum take-off weight was increased from 14,000 to 16,000 kg (30,900–35,300 lb), internal fuel capacity was increased by 40 per cent by relocating the undercarriage, which also allowed for two hardpoints to be added on the fuselage underside.

Its combat radius was 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) when carrying six AAMs and drop tanks. The PS-05/A radar is replaced by the new Raven ES-05 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which is based on the Vixen AESA radar family from Selex ES. The Gripen Demo’s maiden flight was conducted on 27 May 2008. On 21 January 2009, the Gripen Demo flew at Mach 1.2 without reheat to test its supercruise capability. The Gripen Demo served as a basis for the Gripen E/F, also referred to as the Gripen NG (Next Generation) and MS (Material Standard) 21.

Saab studied a variant of the Gripen capable of operating from aircraft carriers in the 1990s. In 2009, it launched the Sea Gripen project in response to India’s request for information on a carrier-borne aircraft. Brazil may also require new carrier aircraft. Following a meeting with Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials in May 2011, Saab agreed to establish a development center in the UK to expand on the Sea Gripen concept. In 2013, Saab’s Lennart Sindahl stated that development of an optionally manned version of the Gripen E capable of flying unmanned operations was being explored by the firm; further development of the optionally manned and carrier versions would require the commitment of a customer. On 6 November 2014, the Brazilian Navy expressed interest in a carrier-based variant of the Gripen.

In 2010, Sweden awarded Saab a four-year contract to improve the Gripen’s radar and other equipment, integrate new weapons, and lower its operating costs. In June 2010, Saab stated that Sweden planned to order the Gripen NG, designated JAS 39E/F, and was to enter service in 2017 or earlier dependent on export orders. On 25 August 2012, following Switzerland’s intention to buy 22 of the E/F variants, Sweden announced it planned to buy 40–60 Gripen E/Fs. The Swedish government approved the decision to purchase 60 Gripen Es on 17 January 2013.

In July 2013, assembly began on the first pre-production aircraft. Originally 60 JAS 39Cs were to be retrofitted to the E-models by 2023, but this has been revised to Gripen Es having new-built airframes and some reused parts from JAS 39Cs. The first production aircraft is to be delivered in 2018. In March 2014, Saab revealed the detailed design and indicated it planned to receive military type certification in early 2018.

Saab Gripen E
Saab Gripen E

In September 2015, Saab Aeronautics head Lennard Sindhal announced that an electronic warfare version of the Gripen F two-seater was under development.

The Gripen E/F makes use of a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Raven ES-05, based on the Vixen AESA radar family from Selex ES. Among other improvements, the new radar is to be capable of scanning over a greatly increased field of view and improved range. In addition, the new Gripen integrates the Skyward-G Infra-red search and track (IRST) sensor, which is capable of passively detecting thermal emissions from air and ground targets in the aircraft’s vicinity. The sensors of the Gripen E are claimed to be able to detect low radar cross-section (RCS) targets at beyond visual range. Targets are tracked by a “best sensor dominates” system, either by onboard sensors or through the Transmitter Auxiliary Unit (TAU) data link function of the radar.

The primary flight controls are compatible with the HOTAS control principle – the centrally mounted stick, in addition to flying the aircraft, also controls the cockpit displays and weapon systems. A triplex, digital fly-by-wire system is employed on the Gripen’s flight controls, with a mechanical backup for the throttle. Additional functions, such as communications, navigational and decision support data, can be accessed via the up-front control panel, directly above the central cockpit display. The Gripen includes the EP-17 cockpit display system, developed by Saab to provide pilots with a high level of situational awareness and reduces pilot workload through intelligent information management. The Gripen features a sensor fusion capability, information from onboard sensors and databases is combined, automatically analysed, and useful data is presented to the pilot via a wide field-of-view head-up display, three large multi-function colour displays, and optionally a helmet mounted display system (HMDS).

Of the three multi-function displays (MFD), the central display is for navigational and mission data, the display to the left of the center shows aircraft status and electronic warfare information, and the display to the right of the center has sensory and fire control information. In two-seat variants, the rear seat’s displays can be operated independently of the pilot’s own display arrangement in the forward seat, Saab has promoted this capability as being useful during electronic warfare and reconnaissance missions, and while carrying out command and control activities. In May 2010, Sweden began equipping their Gripens with additional onboard computer systems and new displays. The MFDs are interchangeable and designed for redundancy in the event of failure, flight information can be presented on any of the displays.

Gripen E Cockpit

Saab and BAE developed the Cobra HMDS for use in the Gripen, based on the Striker HMDS used on the Eurofighter. By 2008, the Cobra HMDS was fully integrated on operational aircraft, and is available as an option for export customers; it has been retrofitted into older Swedish and South African Gripens. The HMDS provides control and information on target cueing, sensor data, and flight parameters, and is optionally equipped for night time operations and with chemical/biological filtration. All connections between the HMDS and the cockpit were designed for rapid detachment, for safe use of the ejection system.

The JAS 39E and F variants currently under development are to adopt the F414G powerplant, a variant of the General Electric F414. The F414G can produce 20% greater thrust than the current RM12 engine, enabling the Gripen to supercruise (maintain speed beyond the sound barrier without the use of afterburners) at a speed of Mach 1.1 while carrying an air-to-air combat payload. In 2010, Volvo Aero stated it was capable of further developing its RM12 engine to better match the performance of the F414G, and claimed that developing the RM12 would be a less expensive option. Prior to Saab’s selection of the F414G, the Eurojet EJ200 had also been under consideration for the Gripen; proposed implementations included the use of thrust vectoring.

General Electric F414-G
General Electric F414-G

The Gripen is compatible with a number of different armaments, beyond the aircraft’s single 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon (omitted on the two-seat variants), including air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, air-to-ground missiles such as the AGM-65 Maverick, and anti-ship missiles such as the RBS-15. In 2010, the Swedish Air Force’s Gripen fleet completed the MS19 upgrade process, enabling compatibility with a range of weapons, including the long-range MBDA Meteor missile, the short-range IRIS-T missile and the GBU-49 laser-guided bomb. Speaking on the Gripen’s selection of armaments, Saab’s campaign director for India Edvard de la Motte stated that: “If you buy Gripen, select where you want your weapons from. Israel, Sweden, Europe, US… South America. It’s up to the customer”.

In flight, the Gripen is typically capable of carrying up to 14,330 lb (6.50 t) of assorted armaments and equipment. Equipment includes external sensor pods for reconnaissance and target designation, such as Rafael’s LITENING targeting pod, Saab’s Modular Reconnaissance Pod System, or Thales’ Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod. The Gripen has an advanced and integrated electronic warfare suite, capable of operating in an undetectable passive mode or to actively jam hostile radar; a missile approach warning system passively detects and tracks incoming missiles. In November 2013, it was announced that Saab will be the first to offer the BriteCloud expendable Active jammer developed by Selex ES. In June 2014, the Enhanced Survivability Technology Modular Self Protection Pod, a defensive missile countermeasure pod, performed its first flight on the Gripen.

Saab describes the Gripen as a “swing-role aircraft”, stating that it is capable of “instantly switching between roles at the push of a button”. The human/machine interface changes when switching between roles, being optimized by the computer in response to new situations and threats. The Gripen is also equipped to use a number of different communications standards and systems, including SATURN secure radio, Link-16, ROVER, and satellite uplinks. Equipment for performing long range missions, such as an aerial refueling probe and onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGS), was integrated upon the Gripen C/D.

JAS 39 Gripen E Flight Demonstration
JAS 39 Gripen E Flight Demonstration

Gripen’s first export bid was to Finland, where it competed against F-16, F/A-18, MiG-29 and Mirage 2000 to replace Finnish Air Force’s J 35 Draken and MiG-21 fleet. In May 1992, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 was announced as a winner on performance and cost grounds. The Finnish Minister of Defence, Elisabeth Rehn stated that delays in Gripen’s development schedule had hurt its chances in the competition.

In June 2015, a working group set up by the Finnish MoD proposed starting the HX program to replace the Finnish Air Force’s current fleet of F/A-18 Hornets. The group recognises five potential types: Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35, and Saab JAS Gripen.

Unit Cost

  • Saab JAS 39 Gripen E – $43 million (flyaway cost, no support)
  • Dassault Rafale C – $62.1million (flyaway cost, no support)
  • Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet – $65.3 million (flyaway cost, no support)
  • Lockheed Martin F-35C – $116 million (flyaway cost, no support)
  • Eurofighter Typhoon, Tranche 3A – $161 million (flyaway cost, no support).

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen E (NG) clearly represents the best value for money, and presents an exceptional capability per unit cost.

Flygvapnet JAS 39 Gripen F
Flygvapnet JAS 39 Gripen F

In December 2015 the Finnish MoD sent a letter to Great Britain, France, Sweden and the United States informing them that the fighter project had been launched in the Defence Forces. The goal of the project is to replace the Hornet fleet, which will be decommissioned as of 2025, with multi-role fighters. The project has been named the HX Fighter Program. The JAS-39 is mentioned in the letter as a potential fighter for the program. The request for information concerning the HX Fighter Program was sent in April 2016. A call for tender will be sent in spring 2018 and the buying decision is scheduled to take place in 2021.

Variants

  • JAS 39A: initial version that entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1996. A number have been upgraded to the C standard.
  • JAS 39B: two-seat version of the 39A for training, specialised missions and type conversion. To fit the second crew member and life support systems, the internal cannon and an internal fuel tank were removed and the airframe lengthened 0.66 m (2 ft 2 in).
  • JAS 39C: NATO-compatible version of Gripen with extended capabilities in terms of armament, electronics, etc. Can be refuelled in flight.
  • JAS 39D: two-seat version of the 39C, with similar alterations as the 39B.
  • Gripen NG: improved version following on from the Gripen Demo technology demonstrator. Changes from the JAS 39C/D include the more powerful F414G engine, Raven ES-05 AESA radar, increased fuel capacity and payload, two additional hardpoints, and other improvements. These improvements have reportedly increased the Gripen NG costs to an estimated US$27,000 per hour, with a flyaway cost of US$43 million.
  • JAS 39E: single-seat production version developed from the Gripen NG program. Sweden has ordered the variant, with Brazil and, originally, Switzerland to place orders.
  • JAS 39F: two-seat version of the E variant. Eight ordered by Brazil, to be developed and assembled there; planned for pilot training and combat, being optimised for back seat air battle management, with jamming, information warfare and network attack, besides weapon system officer and electronic warfare roles.

Proposals

  • Sea Gripen: proposed carrier-based version based on the Gripen NG. As of 2011, its development was underway. As of 2013,Brazil and India were interested.
  • Gripen UCAV: proposed unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) variant of the Gripen E.
  • Gripen EW: proposed electronic war (EW) ‘Growler’ variant of the Gripen F.

Specifications (JAS 39C/D Gripen)

Saab Logo

Gripen E Specifications
(click to enlarge)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 (2 for JAS 39D)
  • Payload: 5,300 kg (11,700 lb)
  • Length: 14.1 m (46 ft 3 in); two-seater: 14.8 m (48 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan: 8.4 m (27 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
  • Wing area: 30.0 m² (323 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 6,800 kg (14,990 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 8,500 kg (18,700 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 14,000 kg (31,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Volvo RM12 afterburning turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 54 kN (12,100 lbf)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 80.5 kN (18,100 lbf)
  • Wheel track: 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 2 (2,204 km/h (1,190 kn; 1,370 mph)) at high altitude
  • Combat radius: 800 km (497 mi, 432 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 3,200 km (1,983 mi) with drop tanks
  • Service Ceiling: 15,240 m (50,000 ft)
  • Wing Loading: 283 kg/m² (58 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.97
  • Maximum g-load: +9 g

Armament

  • Guns: 1× 27 mm Mauser BK-27 Revolver cannon with 120 rounds (single-seat models only)
  • Hardpoints: 8 (three on each wing and two under fuselage)  and provisions to carry combinations of:
    • Rockets: 4× rocket pods, 13.5 cm rockets
    • Missiles:
      • 6× AIM-9 Sidewinder (Rb.74) or IRIS-T (Rb 98) or A-Darter
      • 4× AIM-120 AMRAAM (Rb.99) or MICA
      • 4× Meteor (under development)
      • 4× AGM-65 Maverick (Rb.75)
      • 2× KEPD.350
      • 2× Rbs.15F anti-ship missile
    • Bombs:
      • 4× GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb
      • 2× Bk.90 cluster bomb
      • 8× Mark 82 bombs.

Saab Gripen Specifications

References

  • “Top Stories So Far: Some Things You Ought to Know About Gripen NG”, Gripen, the wings of your nation (official World Wide Web log), Saab, 16 Jul 2015, retrieved 2015-07-16, A two-seater version of Gripen NG is in development and will be used for both pilot training and combat missions. For the combat role, this version will be optimised to enable air battle management from the back seat, including jamming, information warfare and network attack capabilities. Weapon System Officer (WSO) and EW roles can also be facilitated from this position.
  • “World Air Forces 2016 pg. 21”. Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  • Flanagan, Louise (4 September 2013), “SAAF jets aren’t in storage, says general”, IOL (ZA) .
  • Hoyle, Craig (7 September 2007). “Gripen enhancements escape Swedish cutbacks”. Flightglobal. Reed. Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  • “Saab signs new agreement with UK’s test pilots’ school” (Press release). Saab. 15 February 2008. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2013.

The Finnish Air Force (Suomen ilmavoimat) F-18C/D

 

F-18

Background

The F/A-18 “Hornet” is a single- and two-seat, twin engine, multi-mission fighter/attack aircraft that can operate from either aircraft carriers or land bases. The F/A-18 fills a variety of roles: air superiority, fighter escort, suppression of enemy air defenses, reconnaissance, forward air control, close and deep air support, and day and night strike missions. The F/A-18 Hornet replaced the F-4 Phantom II fighter and A-7 Corsair II light attack jet, and also replaced the A-6 Intruder as these aircraft were retired during the 1990s.

The F/A-18 has a digital control-by-wire flight control system which provides excellent handling qualities, and allows pilots to learn to fly the airplane with relative ease. At the same time, this system provides exceptional maneuverability and allows the pilot to concentrate on operating the weapons system. A solid thrust-to-weight ratio and superior turn characteristics combined with energy sustainability, enable the F/A-18 to hold its own against any adversary. The power to maintain evasive action is what many pilots consider the Hornet’s finest trait. In addition, the F/A-18 was also the Navy’s first tactical jet aircraft to incorporate a digital, MUX bus architecture for the entire system’s avionics suite. The benefit of this design feature is that the F/A-18 has been relatively easy to upgrade on a regular, affordable basis.

The F/A-18 has proven to be an ideal component of the carrier based tactical aviation equation over its 15 years of operational experience. The only F/A-18 characteristic found to be marginally adequate by battle group commanders, outside experts, and even the men who fly the Hornet, is its range when flown on certain strike mission profiles. However, the inadequacy is managed well with organic and joint tanking assets.

F-18 2

F/A-18C/D Hornet

Following a successful run of more than 400 A and B models, the US Navy began taking fleet deliveries of improved F/A-18C (single seat) and F/A-18D (dual seat) models in September 1987. These Hornets carry the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the infrared imaging Maverick air-to-ground missile. Two years later, the C/D models came with improved night attack capabilities. The new components included a navigation forward looking infrared (NAVFLIR) pod, a raster head-up display, night vision goggles, special cockpit lighting compatible with the night vision devices, a digital color moving map and an independent multipurpose color display.

F/A-18Cs have synthetic aperture ground mapping radar with a doppler beam sharpening mode to generate ground maps. This ground mapping capability that permits crews to locate and attack targets in adverse weather and poor visibility or to precisely update the aircraft’s location relative to targets during the approach, a capability that improves bombing accuracy. New production F/A-18Cs received the APG-73 radar upgrade radars starting in 1994, providing more precise and clear radar displays.

The F/A-18C Nigh Attack Hornet has a pod-mounted Hughes AN/AAR-50 thermal imaging navigation set, a Loral AN/AAS-38 Nite Hawk FLIR targeting pod, and GEC Cat’s Eyes pilot’s night vision goggles. Some 48 F/A-18D two-seat Hornets are configured as the F/A-18D (RC) reconnaissance version, with the M61A1 cannon replaced by a pallet-mounted electro-optical suite comprising a blister-mounted IR linescan and two roll-stabilized sensor units, with all of these units recording onto video tape.

On the first day of Operation Desert Storm, two F/A-18s, each carrying four 2,000 lb. bombs, shot down two Iraqi MiGs and then proceeded to deliver their bombs on target. Throughout the Gulf War, squadrons of U.S. Navy, Marine and Canadian F/A-18s operated around the clock, setting records daily in reliability, survivability and ton-miles of ordnance delivered.

The Navy announced 18 May 1998 that its East Coast F/A-18 squadrons will relocate to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach VA and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, SC. The jets will move from Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville FL which was ordered closed by the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Nine operational squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron — a total of 156 planes — will move to Oceana. Two squadrons totaling 24 planes will move to Beaufort. The first squadron will move in the fall of 1998 and all 11 fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron completed their moves by October 1999.

Throughout its service, annual upgrades to F/A-18 weapon systems, sensors, etc. continued. The latest lot of the F/A-18C/D has grown to be far more capable (night attack, precision strike, low observable technologies, etc.) than the original F/A-18A/B; however, by 1991, it was becoming clear that avionics cooling, electrical, and space constraints would begin to limit future growth. Additionally, another operational deficiency was beginning to develop. As the F/A-18C/D empty weight increased the aircraft were returning to the carrier with less than optimal reserve fuel and/or unexpended weapons. The additional range and “bring back” is not as essential to shore based operations. F/A-18A/B/C/D aircraft will fly for years with the U.S. Marine Corps and eight international customers: Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand. Although the F/A-18C/D’s future growth is now limited, it will also continue to fill a critical role in the U.S. Navy’s carrier battle group for many years to come and will be an excellent complement to the larger, longer range, more capable F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Finland

A Karelia Air Command F-18 fighter home base in March. Image- Antti Karhunen /Yle
A Karelia Air Command F-18 fighter home base in March. Image- Antti Karhunen /Yle

The Finnish Air Force (Suomen ilmavoimat) ordered 64 F-18C/Ds (57 C models, seven D models). All F-18D were built at St Louis, and then all F-18C were assembled in Finland. Delivery of the aircraft started in November 1995 until August 2000. The Hornet replaced the MiG-21bis and Saab 35 Draken in Finnish service. The Finnish Hornets were initially to be used only for air defense, hence the F-18 designation. The F-18C includes the ASPJ (Airborne-Self-Protection-Jammer) jamming pod ALQ-165. The US Navy later included the ALQ-165 on their F/A-18E/F Super Hornet procurement.

 A Finnish F-18C Hornet in Lapland.
A Finnish F-18C Hornet in Lapland.

One fighter was destroyed in a mid-air collision in 2001. A damaged F-18C, nicknamed “Frankenhornet”, was rebuilt into a F-18D using the forward section of a Canadian CF-18B that was purchased. The modified fighter crashed during a test flight in January 2010, due to a faulty tailplane servo cylinder.

Finland is upgrading its fleet of F-18s with new avionics, including helmet mounted sights (HMS), new cockpit displays, sensors and standard NATO data link. Several of the remaining Hornets are going to be fitted to carry air-to-ground ordnance such as the AGM-158 JASSM, in effect returning to the original F/A-18 multi-role configuration. The upgrade includes also the procurement and integration of new AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. This Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) is estimated to cost between €1–1.6 billion and work is scheduled to be finished by 2016.

A Finnish F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft during the Arctic Challenge exercise September 24, 2013 over Norway.
A Finnish F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft during the Arctic Challenge exercise September 24, 2013 over Norway.

After the upgrades the aircraft are to remain in active service until 2020–2025. In October 2014 the Finnish broadcaster/Yle announced that consideration was being given to the replacement of the Hornet. The most likely contender will be the Saab JAS-39NG. In June 2015, a working group set up by the Finnish MoD proposed starting the HX program to replace Finnish Air Force’s current fleet of F/A-18 Hornet. The group recognises five potential types: Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35, and Saab JAS Gripen.

In December 2015 Finnish MoD sent a letter to Great Britain, France, Sweden and the United States where it informed that the fighter project was launched in the Defence Forces. The goal of the project is to replace the Hornet fleet, which will be decommissioned as of 2025, with multi-role fighters. The project has been named as HX Fighter Program. JAS-39 is mentioned in the letter as a potential fighter for the program. The request for information concerning the HX Fighter Program will be sent at the latest in March 2016. A call for tender will be sent in spring 2018 and the buying decision is scheduled to take place in 2021

Over half of the fleet was upgraded by 1 June 2015. During that week the Finnish Air Force was to drop its first live bombs (JDAM) in 70 years, since World War II.

With increasing Russian activity along the Baltic Sea, Finnish F/A-18s are being forced to regularly intercept both fighters and bombers of the Russian Air Force. Russia has launched several missions  over the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea region in recent years. Russian sorties have increased to the extent that not only has Finland increased its interception rate, but the Baltic air-policing mission, a NATO air defence Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) consortium of NATO members have had to increase their activity in the face of an increased Russian presence in the region, in order to guard the airspace over the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Beginning on December 6 2015, the Russian Air Force has been particularly busy in international airspace close to the Finnish airspace forcing the Finnish Air Force to scramble its F/A-18 Hornets and shadow Moscow’s warplanes.

Tupolev Tu-95 Bear.
Tupolev Tu-95 Bear.

According to the Finnish air force, Tu-95s, Tu-22Ms, Su-34s, Su-27s, Su-24s and MiG-31s have been intercepted by Finnish Hornets in the past few months.

Russian Air Force Su-30SM.
Russian Air Force Su-30SM.

The Future

The next aicraft we will be talking about is the Gripen, which is a lightweight single engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab.The new Gripen NG  (Next Generation) will have many new parts and will be powered by the General Electric F414G, a development of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet’s engine. As compared to LCA TEJAS , the Gripen will have a supercruise speed of Mach 1.1. The combination of delta wing and canards gives the Gripen significantly better takeoff , landing performance and flying characteristics. It also has a built-in electronic warfare unit, making it possible to load more ordnance onto the aircraft without losing self defence capabilities.

Saab Gripen NG
Saab Gripen NG

The Gripen uses the modern PS-05/A pulse-doppler X-band radar, developed by Ericsson and GEC-Marconi. The radar is capable of detecting, locating, identifying and automatically tracking multiple targets in the upper and lower spheres, on the ground and sea or in the air, in all weather conditions.One interesting feature is the Gripen’s ability to take off and land on public roads, which was part of Sweden’s war defence strategy.

Given the capabilities of the Gripen NG, it represents a potent fighter aircraft for Finland’s future security and defence considerations.

References

  1. “Finnish Air Force today” (Web article). Finnish Air Force. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
  2. Shores 1969, p. 3.
  3. Keskinen, Partonen, Stenman 2005.
  4. A photograph of this plane can be found in the book by Shores 1969, p. 4.
  5. Heinonen 1992.
  6. “Armistice Agreement”. Heninen.net. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  7. “Finnish Air Force”. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  8. “Finnish Air Force History”. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  9. “WW2History-AirWarofContinuationWar.html”. virtualpilots.fi. 2005-09-19. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  10. Arter, David: Scandinavian politics today, Manchester University Press (1999), ISBN 0-7190-5133-9, p.254
  11. “Avslöjande: Sverige lagrade jaktplan för finska piloter” (in Swedish). Hbl.fi. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  12. “World Air Forces 2016 pg. 17”. Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  13. “Aircraft of Finnish Air Force:” Finnish Air Force. 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  14. “Puolustusvoimat”. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  15. Satakunnan lennoston organisaatio. Satakunta Air Command. Retrieved 2008-12-22. (Finnish)
  16. “Puolustusvoimat” (in Finnish). Ilmavoimat.fi. 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  17. “Puolustusvoimat” (in Finnish). Ilmavoimat.fi. 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  18. “Puolustusvoimat” (in Finnish). Ilmavoimat.fi. 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  19. “Puolustusvoimat” (in Finnish). Ilmavoimat.fi. 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-20.