March 26, 2013

What did Sweden take from Operation Unified Protector?

Contributor:  Andrew Elwell
Posted:  03/14/2013  12:00:00 AM EDT  |  0  
Defence IQ

Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Wilson is the Head of Air Operations, J3 at the Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters. He was the commander of the first of two Swedish units sent during Operation Unified Protector (OUP) in Libya. Defence IQ recently spoke to Lt Col Wilson about his experience in Libya and how the operation is shaping Sweden’s outlook on acting in future missions.

“One must bear in mind that it was almost 50 years ago since Sweden last participated in a live operation with fighter aircraft [the Congo crisis during the 1960s],” said Lt Col Wilson.

“I think that the speed in which we deployed to Italy, which was just 23 hours after the Swedish parliament made its decision, was quite fast. As a non-NATO country Sweden did not have access to NATO secret systems and it took weeks or even months to get that. But despite the set-backs we declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) after just one week, which during those conditions, was impressive.”

Notwithstanding the complex operational environment and difficult command structure of OUP, Lt Col Wilson listed a number of the key lessons that he took away from the mission. These included: Interoperability on a technical level, with communications and the use of link 16, as well as on the procedure and documentation side; establishing and maintaining a clear chain of command; always ensure you retain an expeditionary mind set; and the understanding that live training exercises both domestically and in collaboration with other nations are essential – tactical evaluation (TACEVAL) of exercises such as Loyal Arrow and Joint Warrior should not be forgotten.

“Regarding operational efficiency and interoperability with other nations Sweden is still participating in international exercises. During this past January and February, eight JAS 39 Gripen from Blekinge wing participated in Red Flag -2 2013. Furthermore, this week Sweden is hosting an exercise in the northern part of Sweden with fighters from both Norway and Finland participating. This is just a few examples of how Sweden maintains and even improves its capabilities in regards to interoperability.”

Considering Sweden’s future fighter capabilities, Lt Col Wilson said that the Swedish government have ordered 60 new JAS 39 Gripen (also known as the E/F version) and that over the next few years will also integrate the GBU 39 (a small diameter bomb) and the new BVR missile (Meteor) to the JAS 39 Gripen system.

The Gripen has been a true success story. I asked if that had played the key role in the rise of the Nordic region as a heavyweight in the fighter aircraft sector. The announcement of the first ever Fighter Nordic conference in May is surely testament to that?

“In Operation Unified Protector, Denmark and Norway also participated with their fighters. At Sigonella NAS we had a very good cooperation with the Danish unit – that collaboration was one of the reasons why we could declare IOC so early.
“I therefore think that all three countries together, not the Swedish Gripen by itself, has led to the Nordic rise that you are referring to.”


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