Swedish Air Force

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Swedish Air Force
Flygvapnet vapen bra.svg
Swedish Air Force Coat of arms
Founded July 1, 1926; 96 years ago (1926-07-01)
Country Sweden
Allegiance HM King Carl XVI Gustaf
Part of Swedish Armed Forces
March Flygvapnets Defileringsmarsch
(March of the Swedish Air Force), by Helge Damberg
Engagements Winter War[1]
Congo Crisis
Afghanistan War
2011 military intervention in Libya
Chief of Air Force Major General Mats Helgesson
Roundels Flygvapnet roundel.svg Flygvapnet-Lowvis roundel.svg
Aircraft flown
S 102B Korpen, S 100 Argus
Fighter Saab JAS 39 Gripen
Helicopter A109, NH90, UH-60M
Trainer Saab 105
Transport Lockheed C-130H, Saab 340, Gulfstream IV

The Swedish Air Force (Swedish: Flygvapnet) is the air force branch of the Swedish Armed Forces.


The Swedish Air Force was created on July 1, 1926 when the aircraft units of the Army and Navy were merged. Because of the escalating international tension during the 1930s the Air Force was reorganized and expanded from four to seven squadrons. When World War II broke out in 1939 further expansion was initiated and this substantial expansion was not finished until the end of the war. Although Sweden never entered the war, a large air force was considered necessary to ward off the threat of invasion and to resist pressure through military threats from the great powers. By 1945 the Swedish Air Force had over 800 combat-ready aircraft, including 15 fighter divisions.

A major problem for the Swedish Air Force during World War II was the lack of fuel. Sweden was surrounded by countries at war and could not rely on imported oil. Instead domestic oil shales were heated to produce the needed petrol.

Expansion during the Cold War

File:DH.98 Mosquito NFXIX MM638 RSwAF RWY 10.49 edited-2.jpg

Swedish Air Force P-51D on display at the Swedish Air Force Museum

The Swedish Air Force underwent a rapid modernization from 1945. It was no longer politically acceptable to equip it with second-rate models. Instead, the Air Staff purchased the best it could find from abroad, e.g. P-51D Mustangs, De Havilland Mosquito NF.19 night fighters and de Havilland Vampires, and supported the development of top performance domestic models. When the Saab 29 Tunnan fighter was introduced around 1950, Sweden suddenly had planes that were equal to the best of the Royal Air Force, the Soviet Union's VVS, and the U.S. Air Force.

During the 1950s the air force started to build road bases after an idea taken from Germany. Built under the BASE 60 distributed airfield scheme,[2] the bases were ordinary highways constructed in such a way that they could also serve as landing strips. In the early eighties road number 44 was rebuilt to contain four short runways (17 x 800 metres). Along the road a large number of turn-around-sites for rearming and refueling were built. These short runways are still used today for training, landing and taking off with Gripen and Hercules as preparation for international operations under adverse conditions.[3]

During the Cold War large amounts of money (including all that had been reserved for Swedish nuclear weapons) were spent on the Swedish Air Force and domestic airplane production. In 1957 Sweden had the world's fourth most powerful air force, [4] with about 1000 modern planes in front-line service.[5] During the 1950s, it introduced fighters such as the Saab J 29 Tunnan, Saab A 32 Lansen and Saab J 35 Draken.

In June 1952 the Swedish Air Force lost two aircraft on Cold War operations, in what became known as the Catalina affair. A signals intelligence Douglas DC-3 was intercepted by Soviet MiG-15s over the Baltic, and shot down with the loss of three aircrew and five civilian technicians. A PBY Catalina rescue seaplane was then also downed, the five-man crew being rescued from the sea by a freighter.

War service

The Swedish Air Force has seen involvement at some level in three wars, the Finno-Soviet Winter War in 1939–40, in which volunteers took part, the Congo Crisis, 1961–64, and in the 2011 Libyan civil war.

Finland 1940

When the Soviet Union attacked Finland in November 1939, Sweden came to its neighbour's assistance in most ways short of joining the war outright. A Swedish volunteer infantry brigade and a volunteer air squadron fought in northern Finland in January till March 1940. The squadron was designated F 19 and consisted of 12 Gloster Gladiator fighters and four Hawker Hart dive-bombers.

Congo 1961–1964

The Swedish Air Force saw combat as part of the United Nations peace-keeping mission ONUC during the Congo Crisis in 1961 to 1964. It established a separate air wing, F 22, equipped with a dozen semi-obsolete Saab 29 Tunnans, which performed well under the rugged conditions in central Africa. The secessionist adversaries possessed only a small number of aircraft with poor combat capabilities, e.g. Fouga Magister trainers.

1990s – restructuring

The end of the Cold War saw the Swedish Armed Forces undergo a massive restructuring process. During that time, several air bases were deemed unnecessary and closed. In 1994 the air force had over 400 fighters, by 2005 the number had sunk to fewer than 150.

Libya 2011

On March 29, 2011, the Swedish prime minister announced that eight Saab JAS 39 Gripens would be deployed to support the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya.[6] The announcement was made in response to a request by NATO for assistance. The Swedish fighters were limited to supporting the no-fly zone and were not authorized to engage in ground attack sorties. The deployment was approved by the Swedish Riksdag on April 1, 2011 and the first jets departed for Libya on April 2. Accompanying the fighters was a C-130 Hercules for mid-air refueling.[7]


The Swedish Air Force is today being adapted to new future tasks. With the collapse of the only military threat, the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, budget cuts have been made in the Swedish armed forces. The Swedish government decided to cut back on the Air Force and its fighters. Today about 80 Gripen C/D fighters remains in service. Some orders have been made on the helicopter side and about 40 new units will join the air force in the next coming years. Saab AB has also joined the primarily French project for the unmanned future stealth plane Dassault nEUROn.

In 2008 as well as in 2010, the Swedish armed forces wanted to retire even more fighters and close air-bases to relocate money to other branches. However, because of negative response from the public and pressure from the Swedish government, no cuts have so far been made.[8][9][10][11]

Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors responded to the Russian purchase of Mistral-class amphibious assault ships by saying that the Swedish Air Force would need "sea targeting capabilities".[12]

In 2013, the USMC introduced Swedish helicopter units to the forward air control airborne mission for better air-ground coordination.[13] In the same year, a further 60 Gripens from the modified E class was orders with the first plane to join the airforce in 2018.[14] In April 2014, the Swedish government proposed another 10 fighters making the total order of 70 planes.[15]

Aircraft inventory

AEW&C Saab 340AEW

File:Swedish Air Force Hercules C-130H departs RIAT Fairford 14thJuly2014 arp.jpg

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service[16] Notes
Saab JAS 39 Gripen  Sweden Multirole fighter JAS 39C
Single seat Multirole fighter
Dual seat Multirole fighter
Single seat Multirole fighter 70 on order[18]
Saab 340  Sweden Open Skies
TP 100A
TP 100C
S 100 D
TP 100A used for Open Skies
Saab 105  Sweden Basic jet-trainer SK 60 35 in flying condition (72 in total)[19] Maintained by Saab and owned by the Swedish government[20]
Gulfstream G-IV SP  United States SIGINT
S 102 B
TP 102
Gulfstream G550  United States VIP TP 102 D 1
Lockheed C-130H Hercules  United States Transport TP 84[21] 5
Two C-130E were retired in 2014.
Aerial refueling
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III  United States Transport C-17A[22] 3 shared Shared within NATO's Heavy Airlift Wing and based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary. Sweden has access to 550 flight hours per year.[22]
NHI NH90  European Union SAR Helicopter
ASW Helicopter
Hkp 14A[21]
Hkp 14B
Initial ordered 18 (13 x SAR and 5 x ASW). Has been delayed and will not be operational until 2017.[24] In December 2015 it was decided that 4 SAR helicopters will be reconfigured to ASW version.
Agusta A109  Italy Utility helicopter Hkp 15A
Hkp 15B
Hkp 15B are specially designed for operations at sea.[25]
Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk  United States Transport helicopter Hkp 16[26] 15 Acquired due to delay of NH-90 to support Swedish Forces in Afghanistan via Foreign Military Sales, operational within 2 years.
Elbit Skylark  Israel UAV SAUV Falken (Falcon)[27]
AAI RQ-7 Shadow  United States UAV AUV 03 Örnen (Eagle) [28]
Skeldar  Sweden UAV



Fighter units

There are three wings of fighters:

Helicopter units

A Swedish Hkp 4 during the "Swedish Battle Camp 2006" event

The aviation units that were formerly under the Swedish Army ("Arméflyget") and the Swedish Navy ("Marinflyget") have been merged with the helicopter units of the Air Force to form the single Helicopter Wing (Helikopterflottiljen, abbreviated Hkpflj) for the entire Armed Forces. The wing has been placed under the authority of the Air Force and consists of:

  • 1st Helicopter Detachment (1 Helikopterskvadronen, abbreviated 1 Hkpskv)
  • 2nd Helicopter Detachment (2 Helikopterskvadronen, abbreviated 2 Hkpskv)
  • 3rd Helicopter Detachment (3 Helikopterskvadronen, abbreviated 3 Hkpskv)


File:Flygvapnet.gif The Air Force is currently deploying the Saab Gripen for service. Gripen, designated JAS 39 Gripen—the designation JAS stands for Jakt (Air-to-Air), Attack (Air-to-Surface) and Spaning (Reconnaissance), and means every Gripen can fulfill all three mission types—is a modern multi-role fighter designed to replace Draken and Viggen. Capabilities of Gripen include a short runway requirement, advanced data link equipment, and canard delta design with lateral instability and fly-by-wire.[30]

Sweden originally ordered 204 Gripen aircraft.[31] Out of these 80 remain in service in the Air Force today and an additional 28 are leased to the Czech and Hungarian Air Force (14 each), with an option to acquire them when the lease period expires. Furthermore, 12 aircraft were sold to the Royal Thai Air Force.[32]

Saab 37 Viggen (1972–2005)
Saab 35 Draken (1960–1999)
Saab 32 Lansen (1956–1997)
Saab 29 Tunnan (1950-1976)

See also



  1. "I luftstrid över Lappland" (in Swedish). Svenskt Militärhistoriskt Bibliotek. Retrieved 2012-12-11.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Martin, Guy (2005–2009). "The Draken: One of Sweden's finest fighters". Aircraftinformation.info. Retrieved 26 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Viggen Showcase – Grästorp, Sweden". Saab History. 2007-06-16. Retrieved 2011-03-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The growth of the Air Force – Flygvapenmuseum". Flygvapenmuseum.se. 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2011-03-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. [1] Archived March 18, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Sweden plans to join Libya no-fly zone with fighter jets, but no ground attacks". The Associated Press. Associated Press. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Swedish Gripen Planes Headed to Libya". The Local. 2 April 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. [2] Archived March 23, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. [3] Archived March 23, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. "Nyheter – DN.SE". Dn.se. Retrieved 2015-05-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. TT (2010-03-06). "Försvaret föreslår nya nedläggningar" (in svenska). Smp.se. Retrieved 2011-03-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. [4] Archived March 14, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  13. [5][dead link]
  14. "Riksdag & Departement". Retrieved 8 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Så vill regeringen stärka försvaret". DN.SE. Retrieved 8 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "WorldAirForces2016-Corrected.pdf". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 2016-01-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Saab och FMV skriver kontrakt om Gripen E". NyTeknik. Retrieved 8 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Rosén, Hans (22 April 2014). "Så vill regeringen stärka försvaret" [So the government wants to strengthen the defense]. Dagens Nyheter (in svenska).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Försvarets materielverk – Historiskt avtal ger besparingar för försvaret". Fmv.se. 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2011-10-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Försvarets materielverk – Flygunderhåll i privat regi". Fmv.se. 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2011-10-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. 21.0 21.1 [6] Archived November 12, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  22. 22.0 22.1 [7] Archived July 28, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  23. "På plats för första, men inte sista, gången" (in svenska). forsvarsmakten.se. 2011-09-15. Retrieved 2011-09-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Tweet Stockholm TT. "Utredare: Köp nya helikoptrar | Inrikes | SvD" (in svenska). Svd.se. Retrieved 2011-03-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Helikopter 15" (in svenska). forsvarsmakten.se. Retrieved 2011-09-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Nyhetsbrev 23 mars 2011" (in svenska). forsvarsmakten.se. 2011-03-23. Retrieved 2011-09-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. [8] Archived July 5, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  28. [9] Archived November 12, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  29. [10][dead link]
  30. "AirSpace". Flightglobal.com. Retrieved 2015-05-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "The Aviationist » Swedish Air Force". Retrieved 8 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Gripen Operational in the Royal Thai Air Force". 8 July 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links