Swedish public radio reported Tuesday that Sweden is considering arming Ukraine with Gripen fighter jets, which are made by the Swedish firm Saab AB.
Sweden has previously ruled out sending Gripens to Ukraine over concerns that its military could not spare them. According to the radio report, before handing the jets over, the Swedish government wants to know how giving Gripens to Ukraine would affect Sweden’s defense capabilities and how long it would take to replace them.
Ukraine wants Sweden to provide one division of Gripens, which consists of 16-18 jets. Any plan to provide Ukraine with Gripens would involve training Ukrainian pilots, meaning the jets wouldn’t see combat in Ukraine until at least late in 2024.
Ukraine has long sought Gripens and other Western-made fighter jets. So far, Kyiv has been promised F-16s and Ukrainian pilots are currently being trained on the US-made planes, which won’t be completed until next year. US officials have stressed the F-16s will only benefit Ukraine in the “long term.”
According to Business Insider, Gripens are cheaper to fly than F-16s and are simpler to maintain. Another difference is that the F-16 is battle-tested, and Gripens have never seen combat as Sweden has maintained a long-standing policy of neutrality until it applied to join NATO last year.