After 650 missions, almost 2,000 flight hours and more than 150,000 reconnaissance photos, the five Gripen fighters that took part in the NATO-led UN mission in Libya have now returned to Sweden.
Sweden’s contribution to the NATO-led mission against Libya ended on Monday. On April 1 the Swedish parliament decided to participate with Gripen in an aerial mission to monitor the no-fly zone over Libya. As the mandate from parliament did not include air-to-ground operations, the Swedish Gripens primarily operated in the reconnaissance role.
This Swedish Gripen force, designated FL 01, comprised of eight Gripen C/D aircraft and a C-130 Hercules. The Gripen force was rapidly deployed from the Swedish Air Force F 17 Wing at Ronneby, Sweden, and all were in place at Sigonella within just two days following the Parliament’s decision. The first mission over Libya was flown on April 8 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.
In total, 140 people participated in the operation based at Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, including ten Gripen pilots. On June 8 Sweden announced it was withdrawing three Gripens from Libya operations, leaving five pilots in theatre. The five pilots have flown their final surveillance missions and are back in Sweden. The remaining personnel will return home this weekend.
Other nations have also been withdrawing their aircraft. Spain withdrew its four F/A-18 Hornets on October 15 and France began the process on Monday, returning four Mirage F1s and two Mirage 2000s to France.