Sweden said Thursday that Ukrainian pilots have completed a first round of training on Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets.
“The orientation training has been completed and according to the report I received from the defense forces, the training went well,” Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson told AFP.
Ukraine has been seeking Gripen jets throughout the war, and Swedish media reported this week that Stockholm was considering obliging the request, but a final decision hasn’t been made.
Jonson said the preliminary training “included test flights both in the aircraft and simulators and information sessions for ground crew.” He said the purpose of the training was to “form the basis of the ongoing work to determine” if Sweden can arm Ukraine with Gripens.
So far, the only Western-made fighter jet pledged to Ukraine is the US-made F-16, which is more expensive to operate and harder to maintain than the Gripen. A major difference between the two jets is that the Gripen has never seen combat due to Sweden’s long-standing neutrality policy, which has changed since the country applied to join NATO last year.
The provision of Western fighter jets to Ukraine is a major escalation of NATO involvement in the conflict. In the early days of the war, NATO ruled out arming Ukraine with fighter jets because they feared Russia would perceive the move as the alliance directly entering the war, but the concerns of escalation have waned.