Sweden's Minister of Defense Pål Jonson said his country doesn't have "surplus aircraft that we could now send to Ukraine" referring to the JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighters, as he explained the issue to the SVT television channel.
That said, Sweden will "largely focus on training, and maintenance and upkeep of equipment it has already sent," the minister stressed.
Read more: Ukraine Has a Signal From "Some Countries" Readiness to Train Pilots For the F-16, And There Are Very Unexpected Options
Being one of the critical needs for Ukraine's air defense, the denial of fighter aircraft may be seen as a painful failure. Especially since Ukraine had sent an official request for JAS 39 Gripen, which was unveiled in February 2023. This aircraft is simple in maintenance, can take off from highways and fire Meteor air-to-air missiles. However, the nuances begin here.
The military balance 2022 tells us that Sweden has 96 JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters in service; they are united in six squadrons, 16 aircraft in each. This many looks like enough to send at least a dozen of them to Ukraine. Poland, for instance, provided 10 MiG-29 fighters for the Air Force of Ukraine.
But we should take into account that the standard number of actual combat-ready military aircraft in the Swedish Air Force may be less than 100%. For reference, the average level of readiness of F-16 aircraft in the operator countries is about 60 to 70%. This figure is approximate but fair for both the United States that makes the F-16 and the "exotic" Iraq. Therefore, we can expect Sweden to have in fact much lesser aircraft pool to choose from when considering the transfer to Ukraine.
Furthermore, there is a significant difference between Polish MiG-29 aircraft, familiar to the Ukrainian Air Force and thus arriving at airfields already having all the necessary equipment and infrastructure for its operation; and Swedish JAS 39 Gripen that will require unfolding the associated infrastructure almost from scratch. It would need huge resources while offering low reward, as the number of aircraft Sweden can give is limited anyways. For a reminder, Ukrainian Air Force Command estimated that Ukraine would need 180 aircraft to put up a fight against russian air force, even if it's a long-term project.
On the other hand, we can see that Sweden denies JAS 39 Gripen to Ukraine for the second time already, the first time it was in February 2023. The systematic stance of the issue makes a good signal for the other allies and partners of Ukraine.
Basically, it reduced the number of options other than F-16 to give Ukraine when it comes to discussing aircraft supplies and leaves no space for debate on the type of aircraft, only about the quantity and terms of delivery.
Read more: Why the US Says 18 Months No Less for Ukrainians to Master F-16 and Keeps Insisting F-16 is Not Necessary For This Stage of War