On 12 September, Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) announced a SEK5.8 billion ($520 million) contract with Saab covering a newly funded package of capability enhancements and adjusted delivery schedules for the Gripen during the period 2023-2030.
In the light of a growing threat, and especially following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine Sweden has decided to abandon its non-aligned status and is now waiting to complete NATO accession protocols. Sweden intends to be an exemplary NATO member, and the Swedish government has decided to increase the defence budget in order to reach the NATO target of 2.0% of the GDP. A €2.2 billion increase in defence spending in 2024 is expected to result in Sweden meeting this target.
Speeding up the acquisition of Gripen E is one result of this expanded budget. Lars Helmrich, the head of the FMV’s aviation and space equipment unit, said that: “The further deterioration of the security policy situation, culminating in Russia’s attack on Ukraine, has made clear the need for a strong combat aviation capability over time.”
He said that the future Gripen E: “will be a very strong addition when the system is added to the air force.”
FMV pilots will begin their intensive flight testing of the Gripen E later this year, while Saab is expected to deliver the first series production aircraft to the Air Force in a similar timeframe, allowing Flygvapen pilot and maintainer training to begin. Initial operational readiness for the Gripen E aircraft was originally scheduled for the second half of 2025, with full operational readiness following by 2030. It is not clear how the recently announced plans to “adjust the type’s entry into service schedule” will affect these dates.
Saab has said that enhancements will include “changes to the electronic warfare, communication and reconnaissance systems,” and it is understood that there will also be the integration of new weapons, including the GBU-53 StormBreaker stand-off PGM, formerly known as the SBD II.
There will be continued parallel development and operation of the Gripen C/D and the next generation Gripen E after 2030, though the older type was expected to leave service by 2035.