Ministers: new planes still needed in light of Russian troops in Ukraine

The government has decided to go ahead and buy 60 next-generation Gripen fighter jets from Saab, reports Swedish Television SVT.

Since the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, also support the purchase, it has a majority in parliament despite protests from the Green and Left parties.

The new warplanes are the “Jas 39 E” model. The original plan was for Switzerland to share the cost of developing and making the planes, but a referendum there put a stop to the deal.

Defence Minister Karin Enström (of the conservative Moderate Party) says the new planes are needed to strengthen Sweden’s ability to defend itself.

”Developments in the world around us, and the Russian actions in Ukraine, where we now have Russian troops inside Ukraine, underline the importance of fulfilling the procurement of the next generation of warplanes,” says the minister to SVT.

Education Minister Jan Björklund, of the Liberal Party says Russia is quickly building up its military and acting aggressively. “We were reached yesterday by the news that they are invading Ukraine, they have earlier annexed Crimea,” he says to SVT on Friday, adding that these developments mean Sweden needs to strengthen its defence, and this means a strong and modern air defence.

Bearing the costs alone will mean Sweden spending several billion kronor more.

The Defence Minister says they will present details on how to finance the deal in their autumn budget. She has not revealed whether the hard-pressed Swedish military will have to make cuts in order to finance the new planes.

The general election will likely mean a change of government, also in the autumn. But the leading opposition party, the Social Democrats, are in favour of buying the Gripen jets. However, their probable partners in government oppose the purchase, meaning tension for a new “red-green” administration.

SVT reports that tearing up the contract to buy the planes would be expensive, if it were even possible.