British Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and her Swedish counterpart, Peter Hultqvist, have signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to partner on future combat air.
The agreement, confidently predicted by observers for the last several months, commits both governments to work on a joint combat air development and acquisition programme, including the development of new concepts to meet both nations’ future requirements.
“The UK and Sweden have an enduring defence relationship, with our two industries sharing a rich history of collaboration in air power. Not only do we share the same commitment to tolerance, freedom and free trade, we also share the same determination to defend those values, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and today as part of the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force. This agreement further deepens this partnership and sees us look to the future with a bold and shared vision of UK and Swedish air power,” Mordaunt commented during the signing on 18 July.
The long partnership between the nations is marked by a series of issues, including:
• Joint exercises in the Arctic and in Exercise Ramstein Alloy over Eastern Europe;
• Swedish-made chaff and flare dispensers are used on UK TYPHOONs and Saab’s GIRAFFE radar is a key part of the UK’s SKY SABRE ground-based air defence system;
• Swedish GRIPEN aircraft are equipped with radars designed and built by Leonardo in Edinburgh;
• Working with European partners including Sweden, the UK has developed the state-of-the-art beyond-visual-range METEOR air to air missile.
Minister Hultqvist confirmed both governments intend to remain at the forefront of combat air. He stressed the opportunities to put advanced technologies onto GRIPEN and TYPHOON before inserting these technologies onto a future combat air system. He also highlighted the strong industrial base shared by both countries as central to securing future combat air power, as well as the existing GRIPEN fighter system, and added that the significant progress made to date was a result of focussing discussions on practical considerations, recognising the strengths of each party and treating each other as equal partners.
Discussions between industries and governments had been ongoing since the publication of the UK’s Combat Air Strategy in July 2018, with common ground identified based on similar future combat air requirements, including being optimised for air defence.
Defence Minister Stuart Andrew confirmed that other nations were being encouraged to join the UK/Swedish dialogue, on the condition that they had similar requirements.