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Interview with MjGen Mats Nilsson
Inspector General of the SAF,
Commander of the AF Command

MjGen Mats Nilsson, born 30.12.56, Västerås, Sweden
1977-79 AF Academy, 79 Leutnant, 82 Captain, 87 Major, 95 Lt. Col., 98 Col., 97 Full Col., 1.7.2000 Mj.Gen. 79-81 Tact.Rec-Pilot, 82-91 Test Pilot FMV Linköping, 93-95 AF Staff Planning Directorate, Stockholm, 95-97 Wing Commander Flying, F 16, Uppsala, 97-99 CO, F 16, Uppsala, From 2000- Inspector General of the SAF, Commander of the AF Command.
On January 30. 2001 Martin Rosenkranz has talked with MjGen Nilsson at "Airpower 2001" in London about Gripen and Flygvapnet for The Flygvapnet is somewhere in the middle of the Gripen integration with nearly a 100 aircrafts beeing delivered, where are the problems and what parts are running fine ?

MjGen Mats Nilsson: Lets start with the good parts. The commercial program is running verry well, we have 3 operational squadrons, the 4th one is on its way. Both for the technicans and for the pilots I really feel we are on the track right now and at this point we really know what is needed to convert the next squadron. This year we start to train pilots without a previous fighter experience, directly from the Saab SK60 into the Gripen programme which of course will be a new challange and it will be verry interesting to see how they can adapt this informational-airplane, only converting from the SK60.
With the new software-edition there are no limitations to the envelope any longer. 9G's and 26°AOA, we actually fly the full envelope with all the pilots and airplane
But I have learned that we have converted previous Draken pilots and they also flew an old airplane and in the beginning they said "I dont know anything like this in here" but in the end we have managed them in a good way. We have been flying more than 17.000 hours on the Gripen, we can see that the MTBF-rates etc. are going down continously, we are still not down at figures we wished to bee, but we have a very positive track and it looks very good.

More than 17.000 hours on the Gripen, the MTBF-rates going down continously.
The ammount of hours to spend on each airplane between flights etc. is going down and the system is getting really more robust.
We also spend money right now to get different systems even more robust and I feel we are on the right track there as well. We have the new software-edition introduced in our airplanes on the daily flightline right now, so we actually fly the full envelope with all the pilots today - 9G's, 26°AOA - there are no limitations to the envelope any longer. We still have some problems connected to the fuel system and the pressurized air system, but it is much better than some one year ago. We run very open-hearted discussions with the industry and they produced great efforts during the last year to make sure we get on the track in this cases. In summary we are looking verry positively how things are going right now on the Gripen-programme. The Flygvapnet is working on and is planning some rather unconventional ideas like the datalink or the twoseater-battlemanager Gripen. What influence on combat tactics this things might have?

MjGen Mats Nilsson: We have a history in Sweden on the datalink for at least 25 years. We started out with the Draken with a fighter controller on the ground and the pilot, only communicating on a datalink system. And we have really developed this further for many, many years.

The Gripen is a flying multiple information system and together with the very smart, very easy to handle datalink-system really spectacular!
The JAS-39D has a lot of potential.
I know 10 years ago, I had a USAF-friend coming over and we showed him the datalink system in the Fighterviggen and he said: "Astonishing, why don't we have a system like this ?" The linked informations that we have today are running between one aircraft and between a group of different aircrafts and also from the aircrafts to the ground, it its really spectacular. And I think this is the way you have to do it, today it is a flying multiple information system and to get full benefit out of it, you have to have a very smart, very easy to handle processes and access-surfaces. The workload in a modern multirole/swingload airplane can be overwhelming if you don't design the system very easy to handle. I think the datalink that we have achieved is fascinating today, altough we look at developing it even further. To the second part of your question, how will we use the twinseater. What we see today is a very big potential. The main subject I think is, todays number of twoseaters. I wrote a study myself in 1992/3 "The use of the twoseater as combat aircraft" meaning not only as a trainer aircraft. We have now ordered 28 fully operational twoseaters and we are right now studying the use of what we call the -39D-aircraft, the second generation twoseater. I look at SEAD and DEAD roles, look at commander-on-scene roles etc. but we have a an open mind right now and we try to see how we can use this. We in Sweden are maybe more interested in coalition efforts as a scene-commander and there is a lot of potential how we can use this new rear-seat platform. This together with our datalink system, I would think we can do very much battle-management indeed in a future option and we are right now studying that. Me personally would therefore like to see more twoseaters. Europe comes closer together in security-matters, neutral countrys are trying to redefine their position in security-policy, there is substantially more co-operation on this sector. How does the Flygvapnet work together with other air forces in this new environment, for ex. like "Baltic Link"?

MjGen Mats Nilsson: The security-policys are changing very much today, it would be interesting in 50 years from now looking back in the history books how the 1990's be described. What we have seen in the last decade is realy a tremendous change as you know. Sweden is now without the old traditional positioning between the two blocks, a little bit like Austria. But for us it was always very special with our former security policy.

The security- policy of Sweden has somehow grown outside the baltics into a European dimension. For us it is very clear politicly and militarly that we have to be maximum interoperability and NATO compatibility - and so we will be with our aircrafts.
It has taken a little while for our politicans to be ready to take the next step - now we are there! And today we have a very clear statement from our political level - that our main task is to be part of an international peace collaboration. Therefore the security- policy of Sweden has somehow grown outside the baltics and into a European dimension. Thats where we have to act and that is in the interest of the Swedish security policy. Following that direction, the Air Force also tries to reflect that. We are verry much in favour of that. The price is high. As you may know, we have now downsized our armed forces but that is the right thing to do. We have to leave the old things behind us to go for the new ones. We started out with PfP-exercises and it was 1997 that we took part in a good PfP-excersise with the Fighterviggen. Now we hosted one last year in Sweden (Baltic Link) and I think we did a verry good job. The interesting part was with all the new partners air-arms coming together. We had crews and planes from the US, England, Germany, the new baltic countrys with their efforts and what they have today. Finland took part and they are doing a verry good job with the F-18's. I know of course you can put a lot of problems on the table - we cant talk to each other allover, we cant do that and cant do this, but you should turn the leaf over and say "What can we do in common" and I think there is certainly a lot we can. This morning there was a little bit a discussion here around interoperability and of course we have continously to look at that. For us it is very clear politicly and militarly that we have to be maximum NATO compatible - and so we will be with our aircrafts. A total NATO compatibility is not possible yet, because still we are a non-NATO-nation of course and yo will not get all the things or information you would get as a member. This turns out down to staff-work, it comes up to hardware-solutions and it may come up to software, but all together we are aware that we need to go to a deeper level together. I think there is a common feeling especially now within the European Union to get the EU-nations on a track now to work together in a crisis management task as "Petersberg", but how we can do this together within those that are both NATO and EU, with the countries beeing NATO but non EU or vice-versa. From the Swedish viewpoint it will be challenging how we can use our influence or know-how in different areas where I think we are in advantage, in some points to get the people on this track. This was maybe a long answer to your question but allover I see we looking more and more on bilateral and trilateral excersises, maybe in the Skandinavian countrys what i would favour very much. F-16MLU from Norway, F-18 from Finland, Swedish Gripens and try to learn from each other for the common tasks. We in the North have different backgrounds, we have different materials but we can work together, we have shown that a couple of times. The Flygvapnet is undergoing a regroupment, when this process will be finished and what size the Flygvapnet will have then?

MjGen Mats Nilsson: As I have mentioned before, we have to take a good cut out of the armed forces and we started last year. We talked about a strategic timeout here at this conference and we all - not only the Swedish - actually have this possibility right now. Every system that will really not be of use after 2010 has to be put out of commision as early as possible to be able to spend the money we have in an effective way to get the new things comming faster. We are discussing very much new military affairs, space based awareness, unmanned stuff like that. Of course its always hard to work in or with an organisation where you said "It's downsizing again".
Every system that will really not be of use after 2010 has to be put out of commision. We have to be a much more active part in the international arena. You can't be just afraid of restructuring.
It took a little bit from enthusiasm, but I think when I go out in the airforce and meet the people then I say "The new times have started, now!" This is where we going. I get a verry good response we have to do something else. What we have done for 50 or 60 years in Sweden has been right, but it is not right any longer, it's a new world out there. We have to take this as a much more active part in the international arena. In Sweden all of the armed forces are very much in favor of that. There is a price for that and we have to pay it, or we need more money but we will not get additional money from the government and so we have to pay the price. I think 90% of the whole people working in the armed forces are in favor of this. We do have a political problem in Sweden maybe, in which we will close Base A, B or C. When you come into the hard facts, people risking their own jobs or their houses or wathever but thats a process not unique for Sweden alone. It is the way in all our countries and ist also not unique for armed forces, its the same in the real worlds economics and its different companies. We have Ericsson in Sweden, it's one of the mayor companies and they are also closing down factories, restructuring the whole time. I think you have to do that consequently and you can't be just afraid of restructuring. If BAE-Saab is lucky and wins one or more of the upcomming competitions (Austria, Czech, Poland), they maybe must deliver aircrafts very fast, within 3 years or less, and/or must provide a meantime solution. So the Swedish Airforce have to give away some Gripens for a few years or get the new Gripens not so fast as originally planned. Are there any problems for you ?
The SAF needs a well running swedish airplane industry. We try to help out very much in favor of what Saab is offering on the export market also if it effect us at home.

MjGen Mats Nilsson: "There is no such thing as a free lunch" as the americans say, right? Of course I promote very much the sale of Gripen to other Countrys. That will also help me out, as the commander of the SAF to make sure that we have a well running airplane industry, which we need again for the SAF. Therefore we try to help out very much in favor of what Saab is offering on the export market. The timeframes are different for different countries, the demands are different in other countries. There will be a problem if the introduction of new Gripens will be changed, but we will handle it, thats my main strategy. We have to because this is very important for us. I have stated before, we are now up to form the 4th squadron. It would cause some interruption to our planning but we can solve this. We have a plan running which stretches out to 2004 how to restructure the whole Flygvapnet, if we have to modify some changes into that, sure we will take that. I can live with that because export success and its offset is so important. It basicly means that we have to fly the Viggen for another year on some bases, whatever, we will look into that when we actually have the "cards on the table". Well, if country A, B or C would like to borrow 20 airplanes for two or three years and then have a delivery of new airplanes or they want to buy used airplanes or they want to train in Sweden our even they want us to come down and train in that country - we have to handle it and we will. It will effect us at home but I am ready to take that. Could you do some comments around the current status of Flygvapnet's inventory ?

The Fighterviggen is our backbone today.
MjGen Mats Nilsson: Well, we have changed the engines on 105 of our Saab SK60's two years ago. We use them for basic flight training, we use them for tactical training and as a light transport to go around the bases. For sure, we still have the Viggen, we have one squadron with the recce-Viggen. This is the squadron that is now ready to be assigned for international peace support-operations so they are in a 30 day-readyness right now and spaced up in Luleå. Today there are 7 squadrons of Fighterviggens, all pretty much at the same status except about 40 airframes in what we did a modification on looking into how can we use them in a international area. Also to give us knowledge for the continouse developement of the Gripen-System. That's the backbone today, the Fighterviggens. As I mentioned there are 3 operational Gripen squadrons, the 4th on it's way. We have integrated the batches of Gripen A, we have now the Gripen B twoseater comming out to train the student pilots, and close to 100 airplanes are delivered. Then we have our 8 C-130's, also ready for peace support operations. They are working very much indeed, one of them came back yesterday from El Slavador helping out with the earthquake down there. There are 4 Gulfstream IV, two for SIGINT and two for VIP transports and then we have our AEW-element, the 6 Saab 340 with the Ericsson Erieye antenna on the top. We can just very easily get the antenna of and then use it for material transport. The rest are some small transport aircrafts.

We have an excellent relationsship with the AAF, I hope we can continue such a good matter as we have developed. The Swedish and the Austrian Air Force over years created a good foundation of co-operation. Are you happy with this relationsship?

MjGen Mats Nilsson: I am realy verry happy with this co-operation. As you said, we have a verry good exchange between Austria and Sweden for many many years. This was starting out with the Saab J-29 and then it was the 105 and then the whole Draken-programme with all your pilots hosted at F-10 Wing in southern Sweden, training on the Draken. Now they are flying the Fighterviggen up in the north in Luleå for a couple of years with excellent results, very good pilots indeed! I think we have an excellent relationsship indeed in very positive matters to say. I would really like to comment that I look very positive on the relationsship between the AAF and SAF and I sure hope after their decision we can continue such a good matter as we have developed. MjGen Nilsson, I thank you for the interview.

MjGen Mats Nilsson: Thank you also, it was a pleasure for me.

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Letzte Aktualisierung: 17.02.2001