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Swedish defense minister: 'Deliberations ongoing' for transfer of Gripen fighters to Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek and Francis Farrell March 28, 2024 7:59 PM 3 min read
Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 28, 2024. (Olena Zashko/The Kyiv Independent)
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Sweden does not exclude the possibility of supplying its Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said in an interview with the Kyiv Independent in Stockholm on March 28, adding that the "deliberations are ongoing."

Sweden has been hesitant to supply its jets, stressing that it first needs to join NATO before it can consider this option. The Nordic country joined the alliance on March 7, potentially opening the door for the transfer of the aircraft.

"The deliberations are ongoing, and they take place within the fighter jet coalition," Jonson said.

The minister reminded that Sweden is also part of the fighter jet coalition, an allied initiative helping Ukraine acquire U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets and the necessary training.

Speaking about Western aid for Ukraine, Jonson said that Europe must "step up" its support and "compensate for some of the support that is going down."

As Ukraine faces increasingly severe ammunition shortages, European allies have been seeking to fill the gap left by the decrease in U.S. aid, which has been blocked for months by domestic political disputes.

Jonson noted positive developments in the Swedish and European defense industry. Stockholm has been investing its own and EU funds into the production of 155 mm shells, which are crucially needed on Ukrainian battlefields.

The country is also part of several international initiatives aimed at boosting ammunition manufacturing.

‘Our reserves will run out:’ Ukrainian artillery sounds alarm on Western shell shortage
Hiding beneath sparse winter cover in a crude, muddy ditch, a great steel monster lies in wait for an opportunity to attack. Adorned on either side with painted plus signs, the gun’s huge barrel looks up at the sky over the Bakhmut front line, across which thousands

"So far, Nammo (a Norwegian-Finnish ammunition manufacturer with factories in Sweden) has more than doubled their own production, and they're working five shifts, which is a level that they haven't been working in for decades," Jonson said.

"According to their estimates... they can triple their production within a few years."

The minister stressed that while it may take the European defense industry a year or more to triple its production, Ukraine needs ammunition as soon as possible.

Jonson praised the Czech-led initiative to buy artillery shells for Ukraine from third countries. The Swedish procurement agency, FMV, established contacts with their Czech counterparts to facilitate the funding and "get things going... within a few months," Jonson added.

Sweden previously pledged 30 million euros ($32 million) to the initiative, which could provide Ukraine with up to 1.5 million rounds in total.

The minister also pointed out the cooperation between Swedish and Ukrainian defense industries, namely regarding the Swedish-made CV90 armored vehicles, which are already fighting in Ukraine. The experience from Ukrainian battlefields also helps Swedish manufacturers to better refit the vehicles, he noted.

Jonson commented on the recent article by the Financial Times, which claimed that the U.S. urged Ukraine to cease its attacks against Russian oil refineries.

"Our position is that Ukraine has the right to defend itself as it is being exposed to an illegal and unprovoked invasion," Jonson said.

"International law provides you (Ukraine) with rights you need to protect yourself."

F-16s for Ukraine: When will they arrive and what can they do?
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is an American air superiority fighter that Kyiv has begged for since the start of the full-scale invasion and is expected to finally start receiving this year. It’s a versatile workhorse of a jet that’s fought in dozens of wars and is
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