PARIS — Sweden's Air Force chief denounced provocative tactics used by Russian pilots in the Baltic region as "very dangerous" and said Swedish Air Force countermeasures, including scrambles and sensor use, are up 50 percent in the last two years.
"As trainee pilots we flew 10km from borders and we expect (Russians) to do it, but after Crimea and Ukraine, the million dollar question is 'What's next?'," said Maj. Gen. Micael Bydén at the Paris Air Show on June 14.
"I grew up with it, but this is unpredictable and I don't like the development," he said.
The IL-20 near misses follow the incident in March 2013 when six Russian aircraft ran a mock bombing run near Swedish air space.
"When we talked to the Russians about the IL-20s, a two-star general said the Swedish air chief was smoking cannabis," he added.
Actual Russian incursions in Swedish air space were not occurring, said Bydén, but in the last two years, the scrambles, the use of sensors and the flying hours related to Sweden's monitoring of increased Russian activity in the area had grown 50 percent, said Bydén.
Sweden will acquire 60 Gripen E aircraft with Initial Operating Capibility expected in 2022 and Full Operational Capability to be reached in 2026. As opposed to currently flying Gripen NGs, the aircraft will offer a new engine, new sensors, a new radar and new EW systems.
An early decision to convert existing Gripen CDs into Gripen Es through upgrades was now being reconsidered, said Hakan Buskhe, CEO of manufacturer Saab.
"Due to the 'stressed situation' they are now saying they might build the 60 aircraft from scratch," he said.
Sweden previously discussed leasing Switzerland 11 aircraft as gap-fillers ahead of its scrapped plan to sell Gripens to the country, said Bydén.
"Today I would not sign for that as we need the planes more than ever," he said. "I was more generous two years ago."
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.