PARIS – The Swedish Air Force is considering issuing a request for information or proposal this summer in its search for a new training aircraft, Swedish air chief of staff Major Gen. Mats Helgesson said June 18.

The air force needs a new trainer as the service has been flying the SK 60 aircraft for more than 50 years and will extend its life to 2024-25, he told an annual meeting of the Swedish Air Force Fan Club on the eve of the opening of the Paris Air Show.

Asked what would be the perfect replacement, he said, "very cheap, fast." The key to the acquisition, he said, would be an advanced trainer that could go directly from "a trainer to single-seat high-performing aircraft."

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Helgesson also noted that the service expects to fly six squadrons comprising 60 Gripen E by 2026. The Gripen E, which will replace the present C/D model, will be the first fighter to be armed with the Meteor long-range missile, making the Swedish service the best equipped air force, he said.

A Gripen E made its maiden flight last Thursday.

Studies are already being done to consider the successor to the Gripen, which "will be a significant change," he said. There needs to be a "community of thinkers," who will consider factors beyond artificial intelligence and big data.

On the Swedish response to Russian air activity, he said, "we have not had any significant change in the environment in the Baltic sea during the last two years.

"We are on the same level as we were in 2014, 2103," he said, which saw increased activity compared to 2010-11. "We are at a stabilized high level," he said.

Sweden is considering a transport plane to replace its fleet of C-130H, and all options are open, he said. The main requirement is national security, but the service also operates in international missions.

The air force is waiting for the Swedish defense commission to agree next year the 2021-26 budget, which will help set the financial framework for procurement.