SINGAPORE — Six months after Ukrainian pilots tested the Swedish Gripen fighter jets, the aircraft’s vendor says government and industry movements are continuing to provide them to Kyiv in what could be a relatively quick transfer.

Stockholm has been touting the possibility of sending the Gripen JAS39 to Ukraine for several months now, but has made any decision on this contingent upon the country’s accession to NATO.

Manufacturer Saab is moving in lockstep with government, executives said here at the Singapore Airshow.

“We are fully aligned with what has been put forward by the Swedish government on this matter – we also continue to work to support and work with our Hungarian partners in the best way we can,” Mikael Franzén, chief marketing officer at Saab told Defense News.

“We expect that if such a decision was granted approval by the Swedish government, it would be a fairly rapid process to send the aircraft to Ukraine. We are moving in the right direction currently,” he added.

What was expected to be a rather quick process of admitting the Nordic state into the military alliance has turned to be an 18-month ordeal, now delayed by Hungary, which has yet to ratify the protocol for its accession.

A senior member of the country’s ruling party told local media this week that the Hungarian parliament could vote as early as Feb. 26 on the issue, and the government has indicated its intention to vote in favor of Sweden’s entry.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is also scheduled to meet with his Hungarian counterpart on Feb. 23.

“There remains a big push coming from inside and outside of Sweden for us to send the Gripen to Ukraine, and we stand ready to provide these should a decision be reached by the government on this,” Franzén said.

Saab officials confirmed to Defense News that Ukrainian pilots successfully tested the Gripen jets in Sweden last fall, which observers hailed as a sign that negotiations for their transfer were advancing.

According to Jussi Halmetoja, former Gripen pilot and air operations advisor for Saab, teaching a pilot how to fly the aircraft is easy, but it is only one part of the equation, as they must also learn how to effectively use the combat systems.

“On average it takes between 4-6 months to train a pilot to use the Gripen JAS39 fighter in the techniques for a limited mission set such as air-to-air and beyond-visual-range,” he told Defense News at the airshow.

“One of the initial challenges that can easily be overcome is language barriers, but teaching them about maintaining the aircraft and using its weapons as well as tactics, techniques and procedures properly are harder ones,” he added.

Thus far, the only Western fighter jets to have received formal approval to be sent to Ukraine are Denmark and the Netherland’s U.S.-made F-16s, which are to be transferred as soon as pilot training is completed.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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