Griffin for the Armed Forces of Ukraine: how Ukraine plans to change combat air force

Photo: saab.com

Photo: saab.com

The Ukrainian Air Force named the Swedish multi-purpose aircraft of the 4 ++ generation SAAB JAS-39 Gripen as optimal for replacing our fleet of post-Soviet aircraft.

Soviet legacy

Let us recall that Ukraine operates MiG-29 and Su-27 interceptors, Su-24 bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, Su-25 attack aircraft—only 120-130 units on the wing. There is no board in the Air Force younger than 1991. And we can pour a lot of money into modernization and sign memorandums with Israel, but in the next few years the matter of replacement will be put point-back.

Because, no matter how you add the letters to MU-1\MU-2, equip interceptors with new radio detection and ranging equipment together with Israel and modernize the MiG-29 for work on the ground, but 30 years is an impressive period. Take-off and landing cycles and even storage kill metal that was clearly not designed for a second generation of operating life.

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And, in principle, we must hurry.

The Ministry of Defense of Poland began research to replace Soviet aircraft in 1999, and the first F-16 block 52s appeared in the country in 2006.

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Romania decided to purchase F-16s in the spring of 2010, and the F-16 block 15 from the Portuguese Air Force were transferred in the autumn of 2016.

Any arms contracts are not a quick process, and SAAB's capacities are still partially swamped with contracts for Brazil and the domestic market. So, if these are not mothballed vehicles taken out of service by the Swedish army, then it was time to start negotiations already yesterday.

Money, money and money once again

The calculation method, however, was not given in detail, but according to the calculations of the Commander of the Air Force of Ukraine Drozdov, the need for the army in the JAS-39 will be 96 aircrafts. The purchase price as at 2021 is $6.9 million/ And that in itself is quite a considerable amount—Ukraine’s budget for the purchase and repair of equipment in 2021 is $780 million, in 2020—about $820 million.

If seriously planning in the next 10 years to spend $1 billion on Turkish corvettes Ada, and as a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, to get $690 million a year for aviation, then it tempts to ask "And where, in fact, the money are taken from?"

Moreover, it is necessary to find ready cash—it’s not sure that it will be loans from French banks, as in the case with helicopters or assistance through the Pentagon. For a significant part of the amount "for the purchase and repair" in our realities (equipment of the 1980s of the last century) are precisely repairs with modernizations.

And even if the Swedish side agrees to lease, even for it it is necessary to find rhythmic financing somewhere else. It is unlikely that it will be possible to quickly increase costs at least twice. In the meantime, it looks like Ukraine, having lost 4.4% of GDP in 2020, wants to spend more on airplanes than on all equipment before. And this only happens in science fiction series.

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And yes, the option for aircraft is usually 2-3 spare engines, equipment on the ground, spare parts kits, and pilot training. It is also needed to pay for weapons and additional equipment with minted coins. For example, aiming containers cost 1.3-1.5 million dead presidents, AIM-120C air-to-air missiles cost from $0.5 million. And we also need Guided bombs, electronic warfare containers, special ammunition against bunkers or radar stations are also needed.

Multiply by 96 planned Ukrainian aircrafts, for example, the recent Polish contract only for the American Jassm Extended Range air-to-ground cruise missiles at a cost of $222 million. And the figures for the rearmament of the Ukrainian Air Force will become approximately clear.

Swedish "Griffin"

JAS-39 Gripen is a quite good plane:

  • created using composite and stealth technologies;
  • capable of using almost the entire range of NATO weapons (not only Swedish and American, but also EU-developed missiles, the same Meteor);
  • with the reliable proven German Mauser;
  • General Electric F404 engine;
  • powerful multi-mode active array radar.

And also an advantage for Ukraine will be the ability of "Griffin" to land on the highway and use short runways. The Romanians, when changing to the F-16, had, for example, to disburse the NATO tranche for almost $20 million, lengthening the runway at the base in Fetesti to 2,800 meters.

The Swedes can use a shortened take-off from sites up to 800 meters, using the concept of dispersal from air bases to avoid attacks on caponiers at the very beginning of the war.

In addition, a rich experience has been gained in "changing" post-Soviet aircraft in the Czech Republic and Hungary, including leasing, and with a logistics package. The price of a flight hour is also known on the example of South Africa and Eastern Europe—$8,000-10,000.

But in general, so far the issue of rearmament of the Ukrainian Air Force has not moved off the ground. All these calculations are a thing in themselves until the issue of financing and a contract is resolved. Moreover, by stopping at the American F-16, it is possible to get a service or a package of weapons for them through the Pentagon assistance. For the sake of argument, American missiles can also be used from Swedish aircraft.

But whether the State Department would like the contract to go to Stockholm, and Washington would pay for a range of weapons for it using US taxpayers money—the answer is quite obvious. And the "Griffins", although they were used to provide a no-fly zone in Libya, cannot be compared with the experience of Israel in Syria or the United States in Iraq on the F-16.

And in such a politicized business, when, for example, the US Construction Corps are engaged in the restoration of our military airfields, not always the most efficient in terms of price and quality will end up in service. So before the contract is signed, this is all deep theory. And even after its signing it will take about 5 years to see real planes on combat duty. Therefore, today only one thing is clear—we must hurry.

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