Anförande vid Flygvapnets 90 års-firande

Linköping den 26 augusti 2016
Det talade ordet gäller

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen - Airmen!

The security situation in Europe and our close vicinity is more challenging and harder to navigate than before. A multitude of security challenges are facing Europe and the transatlantic community.

In the south we see how ongoing conflicts and terrorism create human tragedy. In the east we face a more challenging Russia.

The European security order is severely challenged by Russia's ongoing illegal annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine. The aggression in Ukraine and the involvement in Syria indicate an increased political will to use violence to achieve political goals.

The significance of the Baltic Sea Region to European security has increased. Tensions have increased over the last years. The military-strategic situation in the Baltic Sea Region has deteriorated and the region has become less secure.

From the Russian side we see large scale military exercises and provocative activities close to our borders. Snap exercises in Sweden's vicinity have become a regular feature. We have seen that tactical nuclear weapons are a feature in Russian exercises and we have heard irresponsible nuclear rhetoric's from Russian officials. Russian officials speak of the Baltic Sea region as their "backyard" or their "sphere of interest".

Too often Russian aircrafts act dangerous and unprofessional in the Baltic Sea. From the Swedish side, we know how it feels to be exposed to this provocative behaviour. No matter the nationality of an aircraft or a ship, such actions must be condemned. It is important to reduce risks and build confidence.

The Swedish government has, with broad support in the parliament, decided to make substantial increases in defence spending for the first time in many decades. This is a clear sign of how serious the government assesses the developments in our region and a deteriorated military-strategic situation for Sweden.

The key priority is to enhance the warfighting capability of the Armed Forces, as well as to develop a new Total Defence concept which includes both military and civilian defence. It also includes a psychological defence which will work against disinformation operations conducted by another state or non-state actor.

As a response to the new military-strategic situation, the new defence bill calls for a renewed regional focus, with emphasis on national defence and planning for wartime scenarios.

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History has shown us that it is easier to tear down than to build up. We come from a long period of cuts in defence spending and what is known as the strategically time-out. The defence bills from the years after the cold war were based on a strong belief in a lasting peace and stability in our region. The notion of an armed attack on Sweden or any of our neighbours seemed farfetched and our focus was primarily set on defending Sweden and Swedish interests abroad. The Armed Forces were transformed into a light, agile, expeditionary force, organized to fight less technologically advanced non-state actors. What seemed right then proved to have grave consequences when we later faced an altogether different development in the world.

This long period has meant that we have lost former capabilities as well as strength in numbers. In the Air Force we went from over twenty fighter, attack and reconnaissance squadrons in the eighties to four, as an all-time low. However, during this period of expeditionary focus, the capability to meet a qualified enemy was always a highly valued and crucial task for the Air Force.

Today, readiness and capability is more important than in a long time and we have therefore re-commissioned two fighter squadrons formerly dedicated to pilot training. We cannot afford not to make use of all our assets!

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Our Air Force is a key component of our Armed Forces and our defence capability, as it has always been. That is in times of peace, as well as in crisis and war.

The Air Force is maintaining its readiness twenty four-seven - surveilling and protecting our borders. This is an on-going operation – it is not training – it is for real.

Our Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) assets provide us with full control of all movements within, and around, our borders. The QRA has increased its activity over the last few years, as the general behaviour and flying patterns over the Baltic Sea has changed and evolved.

Our adapted presence in the air is a strong signal that we want to be, and are, an active part of the security solution in our region.

Strategically we will always have a defensive posture, with the aim to build stability and peace. However, in accordance to international law and the principle of territorial integrity in the Charter of the United Nations, we will always be prepared to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Intellectually we have to embrace and be prepared for the fact that our integrity might be challenged. And the first to counter a possible enemy will be the Air Force.

During the cold war, the Air Force's task was basically to keep the enemy at bay, until our army was fully mobilized. A large portion of our fighter squadrons, along with our ground based air defence, were to deny the enemy the control of the air.

The reconnaissance squadrons were tasked to give a heads-up for a possible invasion, and if necessary, our strike squadrons would take out enemy vessels before they reached our shores, where they would be yet harder to stop.

The strategic importance of the Air Force during this phase of the war cannot be overrated!

This is the case today as well. With flexibility, rapid response and adaptive tactics our Air Force's main task is to protect our borders and territory and to make the prize of a possible attack too high.

The Air force is the first line of defence and the first to encounter potential aggressive actions. Early warning is paramount. We need big ears and good neighbours! In this sense, the Air force is a key part of Sweden's threshold capability.

We also have to be sure that we know what we will encounter in the air. And that we, both tactically and technically, are up to the challenge.

The Air Force needs to have operational relevance today AND in a future we cannot fully foresee. We need to plan for and be ready to counter an ever-changing security environment, technical development and asymmetrical threats.

In order to take our responsibility to protect Sweden, we need to also remember our history and how the security situation can change faster than what we could have foreseen, into something worse than what we would have hoped. The decision in 1925 to organise the Air force as an independent branch of the armed forces was a forward-looking decision that admitted that Sweden had to adapt to the challenges of the future. We need to keep being as foresighted as we look beyond this 90th anniversary.

A crucial part in maintaining the operational relevance of the Air Force is to, over time, support and protect the capability, the technological knowhow and the conviction that our Air Force has a fundamental role to play in the event of a crisis, armed attack or war. This is why we in the defence bill pointed out the air fighting capability as an essential security interest.

To change, develop and implement capability is a demanding endeavour. The set-up times are long, not only in terms of developing air power but also in terms of doctrinal thinking, tactical development and training our airmen. Foresight is everything!

In the light of recent developments in our surrounding security environment the need for a strong, competitive Air Force has become increasingly evident.

We need to further boost our overall operational capability to be able to meet the new security demands and the technological achievements of possible opponents. The introduction of Gripen E is a vital part of this ambition.

The Gripen system, as well as other systems, has followed a logic of both development of interoperability and adaption to new, operational demands.

The first version of Gripen, A/B, was in all respects an aircraft built for our national defence. To be used by Sweden with our Armed Forces as the only user.

The Gripen C/D of today is fully interoperable, both in terms of the fighter system itself, air-to-air refuelling, Link 16, the identification system IFF and much more.

Gripen E is the next generation fighter which will become fully operational during the 2020's, giving us considerable strength in the air domain.

The new Gripen will allow us to meet new challenges that for sure lie ahead. I see this as a major contribution to our efforts to meet our new security environment. A contribution made possible through the government's increased defence spending.

We have always valued and developed our technological knowhow as a necessary prerequisite for the continuous development of the Air Force's capability. The Meteor air-to-air missile is a good and recent example.

We are, and have been for a long time technologically ground-breaking in a lot of respects. The Canard-wing on the Viggen fighter and the tactics we developed based on our fighter link are examples of when Sweden has pushed the development forward.

Close and relevant cooperation between state and industry has been of significant importance in this development.

This government is pursuing a two-tiered defence policy: as we are reinforcing our own military capability we are also, from a position of military non-alignment, deepening our cooperation with our partners.

Sweden believes that challenges to European security must be met through cooperation and joint action. To build security together with others is a core principle in Swedish security and defence policy. But on the national level, every country must take their share of the responsibility.

Together with our EU and NATO neighbours in the Baltic Sea region, we are building deterrence through reinforced military capability and deepened cooperation.

We are deepening our cooperation with our Nordic neighbours, in particular with Finland, the Baltic States, the EU, NATO and the USA.

The cooperation between Sweden and Finland is the one that goes farthest and we are planning to have the possibility to act together in crisis and even war.

The transatlantic link is of key importance, as well as a unified European response to the events challenging European and global security.

National and international exercises strengthen our operative capability. To act together with other countries on a regular basis, in operations or training, spurs the development of technological interoperability.

It gives the Air Force the opportunity to train in more realistic scenarios, with different types of aircraft. Concepts such as for example Cross Border Training make flying and fighting together commonplace. We have also decided to upgrade the Arctic Challenge Exercise into a Northen Flag-like exercise.

This sends a strong signal that we are taking responsibility for the security in our region. It also means that we can strengthen or national military capability and at the same time develop interoperability and capacity to cooperate with others.

Operation Unified Protector in 2011 proved this a fact, when we on very short notice became a valued, fully interoperable participant.

The Swedish Airforce is a ninety year-old that is all but retiring. On the contrary – it is a ninety year-young that has to continuously prepare for the unknown, adapt to an ever-changing security surrounding and technological development, spawned by other countries' agendas.

We are dedicated to continue to keep our Air Force relevant and an high-impact component of our defence.

At last, warm congratulations also to LtGen (ret.) S-O Olson, former commander of the Air Force and year-child with the Swedish Air Force, on his ninetieth birthday on the 26th of November.

Thank You all for your service!