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Malmen June 2012

Robert Nispeling and Peter Kooijman visit Malmen airbase for the Celebration of Swedish military aviation at its birthplace
Pictures by the authors unless stated otherwise

Linköping in central Sweden is the birthplace of military aviation in Sweden and is also the “aviation capital” of this nordic country. In June 2012 two events were commemorated: celebrating 100 years of military aviation at Malmen airbase and the 75th anniversary of SAAB Aviation factories, located at their factory airfield to the east of the town.

While Swedish Defence Forces (Försvarsmakten, SDF) have held many air shows in the past, the first edition of the Aerospace Forum in 2010 can now be labeled as the ‘rehearsal’ of a bi-annual air show to be held at Malmen, supported by the Defense Forces, SAAB, City of Linköping, Volvo, Patria and government institutions like FMV (test unit) and FXM (defence export agency).

This year the event kicked off with a Forum discussing defence and aviation topics, followed by a SAAB and Defence Forces familiy and VIP-day on Saturday 2nd June. The public air show and celebration took place on Sunday 3rd June. To promote the event, press and aviation enthousiasts were welcomed to Malmen as well, with a ‘private’ tour on Saturday, a dedicated area near the runway for photography and a press centre for contact with the organisers and interview possibilities.

Although the rough and cold weather left everyone windswept at the end of the day, representatives of Swedish Defence Forces -the core formed by staff from the local helicopter battallion- was warm and friendly. A strong wind unfortunately prevented some of the historic flying machines from participating in the flying program, but by and by most of the programmed flights took place as planned.

Have helicopters will travel

Over the past decade SDF has phased out many older types of it’s core helicopter force (AB-204, KV-107, Bö-105), relying a.o. on the new NH-90 to become the new workhorse for combined Air Force – Army operations. The well-known delays in the NH-90 program have also forced SDF to put in stop-gap measures, especially in support of its ISAF commitment to Afghanistan. The NH-90 (called Hkp 14 in Swedish service) was supposed to be deployed to this theatre years ago, but as it turns out the trusty Super Puma (Hkp 10) will have to soldier on at least till April 2013 when they will be replaced by.... UH-60Ms! SDF had to resort to an off-the-shelf type and bought 15 new UH-60M Blackhawks (Hkp 16) to support the Swedish contribution to ISAF in Afghanistan in the CSAR/MEDEVAC role. Sweden has been supporting ISAF for more than a decade and approximately 400 Swedish soldiers are now part of the PRT in Mazar-i-Sharif.


Helicopter Force

Armed Forces Helicopter Types

Besides the medium/heavy replacement (NH-90s for Super Puma and KV-107), the AB-204 and Bö-105 light helicopters were replaced between 2006 and 2009 by a total of 20 AW109 LUHs (called Hkp 15). The SDF ordered 12 utility and training examples for the Army, the Hkp 15A and 8 naval versions version, called Hkp 15B. The B-version is being used on the Swedish navy's Visby-class corvettes and have a slightly shorter tail than the Army version. They can be equipped with a hoist, searchlight, radar, FLIR, thermal camera, sonobouys, a light machine gun and emergency floats. From 2009 they were sent out to support the Swedish Navy contribution to the EU anti-piracy mission “Atalanta” in the Gulf of Aden and additional modifications included the installation of ballistic protection and sand filters. Future deployment of these helicopters on the futuristic Visby-class corvettes is imminent.

The NH-90 or Hkp 14 was introduced to SDF in 2011 and six are presently in service. A total of 18 were ordered in 2001 (!) with an option on seven more. Between 2008 when the KV-107 was withdrawn and 2012 Sweden had to rely on the Super Puma for medium lift. Their helicopter support to the EU’s Nordic Battle group was given to a Croatian Mi-17 unit as Sweden could not deliver enough medium lift capability. Like many European countries, the NH-90 operational entry into service had to be delayed by five to seven years, leaving gaps in operational planning and high costs in maintaining or upgrading existing helicopters. Right now delivery is on track and operational experience of the Hkp 14 gets high marks from its users. An additional feature on the Swedish NH-90 is the internal height of the cabin, which is 1.82 m high compared to 1.58 m of the standard NH-90. The high-cabin version (HCV) will provide SDF soldiers, loadmasters and gunners with easier access and egress, saving time and giving less backaches!















Introducing three new types of helicopters (Hkp 14, 15 and 16) presented a major training, engineering and operational challenge to the Helicopter Wing at Linköping-Malmen. At almost every level staff was being trained, new facilities being built, while regular operations had to continue. Building up support and engineering knowledge is hard enough on an organization transferring from one type to the other, imagine three processes going on almost parallel.

Keep them flying

the Swedish Air Force Historical Flight

SAAB indigenous jets form historic flypast formation
In the past few years, the Swedish Air Force Historical Flight had a special project on their hands, restoring a classic delta “Viggen” (Saab 37) to flying service. The last official Viggen flight of a front-line unit took place in 2005 and the final Viggen flight was in 2007. A suitable airframe (37508 a veteran of F15 and last frown in 1998) was selected and a long period of restoring and refurbishing took place. The second roll-out of 37508 -produced in 1977- took place earlier in the year, followed by its “first flight” on 27 March 2012. The foundation was ready in time to add another SAAB-produced jet to their impressive line-up. For this years event the formation consisted of the J-29 Tunnan (flying barrel), J 32 Lansen, Saab 105 jet trainer, J 35 Draken and J 37 Viggen, completed by the SDFs current multi-role fighter, the JAS 39 Gripen. This unique formation performed every day over Malmen and was a sight to see. There are very few countries worldwide able to show a flying formation of legacy military jets like the SAAB-formation in 2012. This shows the dedication and support to the Swedish Air Force Historical Flight to keep these aircraft flying long after their military lives.





The SAAB JAS 39 Gripen

JAS 39 Gripen

The current SAAB-fighter is of course the JAS 39 Gripen. As far as planning goes, SAAB, Flygvapnet and other users of the SAAB Gripen have made an extraordinary effort this year with all users present and/or flying in the Lion Effort 2012 exercise, which took place in April 2012 at Ronneby Airbase in South Sweden and two brand new export customers’ Gripens at Malmen, being a South African Air Force (SAAF) example and a Thai Air Force one, still to be delivered. Also in Malmen was a Hungarian example. The only current customer not shown at the anniversary was a Czech Republic Gripen. The SAAF even gave a spirited solo jet display, probably the first and last time such a display ‘away from home’ will be given in Europe. The four Gripens taking part in Lion Effort and the jubilee in Malmen will be shipped to South Africa in August after final preparation at the SAAB factories

Although five export customers (Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Thailand and Switzerland) taking in about 150 aircraft might not seem like a large number, the diversity and inventive way of financing and operating these aircraft will deliver new customers in the future. Especially at a time when one of the other modern jets on the market (JSF / F-35) has a dark cloud over it’s potential export success as costs rise sharply and deliveries slump. SAAB will no doubt watch these developments closely and will try and find a way to get their Gripen E/F in the spotlight for those countries leaving the JSF project.


KARO Aviation would like to thank Linköpings Helikopterflottiljen for opening up their home, Maj Urban Wahlberg for planning the aviation side of this event, Anna Lindh for coordinating with the press and Maj Peter Hagsköld for taking us around the airfield for some extra helicopter photographs.


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