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Swedish Gripens deliver 37% of Libyan reconnaissance reports

altSweden’s five remaining Gripens taking part in NATO operations over Libya have recently passed the 1000 flight hour mark whilst flying reconnaissance missions over the North African nation. They generate 37% of the reconnaissance reports for Operation Unified Protector.

The Gripens passed the 1000 flight hour mark in Libya at the end of last month after four months of flying.

The Gripen fist took part in operations against Gaddafi on April 7 in the first combat sortie by the Nordic country's air force since the early 1960s. The aircraft had carried out a mission lasting about 40 minutes, according to plan, and had returned safely to their base in southern Italy 600 km away.

The last time Sweden flew combat missions was in the Congo in the early 1960s, under United Nations orders.

The country, which has not fought a war for 200 years, sent eight single-seat JAS 39 Gripens to the Sigonella airbase at the start of April to help patrol the no-fly zone. Sigonella in east Sicilia hosts some of the 240 aircraft under NATO’s command, including aircraft from Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, France, Canada, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

The Swedish jets have been forbidden by Swedish authorities to carry out any ground attacks other than in self defence, conditions agreed with NATO.

On June 8, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the Nordic nation would cut the number of Gripen fighter jets it commits to the alliance to five from eight, but this was enough to carry out its mission.

"To maintain the military pressure is very important ... so that the political process may lead to a very fast solution, so that we then can move over to democracy and state building in Libya," Bildt told reporters. "There will be more surveillance operations that what we've been able to achieve so far."

“If there is a special target that NATO is interested in, they prefer the Swedes to perform the mission. This makes me a little bit proud,” Fredrik Bergman, commander of the Swedish air force unit, told Svenska Dagbladet.

With their reconnaissance pods, the Gripens can, from a height of 7 000 metres, detect individual people. As soon as a Gripen returns from a mission, a group of technicians download all the digital photos, which are sent to NATO commanders within a few hours.

FL 02 Commander Fredrik Bergman said the performance of the Gripens in the four-month operation was impressive since they only had around a quarter o the regular maintenance resources available.

"I met personally COM CJTF, COM CFAC and the CAOC Director, and their overall opinion is that Sweden's contribution in Operation Unified Protector is of extremely high quality. Our reconnaissance image quality, high precision analysis and fast delivery impresses our clients," Bergman told Stockholm News.
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