Disgruntled Swedish Military Pilots Leaving in Droves
05:49 GMT 24.05.2022 (Updated: 05:50 GMT 24.05.2022)
© AP Photo / Mindaugas KulbisSwedish Air Force JAS-39 Gripen fighters
© AP Photo / Mindaugas Kulbis
The Swedish Officers' Union admitted “a great deal of dissatisfaction” among its fighter pilots over salaries, career development and pension terms, yet assured it has nothing to do with the conflict in Ukraine or Sweden's possible NATO accession.
Discontent has led many fighter pilots to leave the Swedish Armed Forces or consider doing so, the trade newspaper Officertidningen has reported. Coupled with a looming wave of retirements in the coming years, this may pose serious staff problems for the Swedish Air Force.
The Swedish Armed Forces refused to state how many fighter pilots have left, but according to Officerstidningen, this trend has manifested itself among fighter pilots on all air flotillas in Sweden.
“I can not say how many pilots it is, based on tactical reasons,” Lena Bogren, communications manager at the Skaraborg air flotilla F7, told national broadcaster SVT. “We turn all the stones we can in order to find solutions,” she added.
Nor does the Officers' Union have any figures on how many fighter pilots have taken leave or are considering leaving the Armed Forces.
“But there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the fighter pilots, mainly over salaries, career development and pension terms,” Johan Hansson of the Officers' Association told SVT.
According to Hansson, it is probably just a coincidence that the pilots' leave applications are coming now, and it has nothing to do with either the conflict in Ukraine or Sweden's drive toward NATO.
“The pilots are a robust professional group that has strict selection requirements, so it is out of the question that it has anything to do with the global situation,” Hansson said.
Nevertheless, the Officers' Union argued that the situation could escalate further unless the Armed Forces acts on it.
In recent years, the Swedish Armed Forces have been struggling to recruit new pilots and even retain existing staff. According to the military, it takes 78 months to fully train a military pilot.
“We have a group that works with this issue at the central level, as well as at the union level, so we really take it very seriously,” Lena Bogren told SVT. “I don't think we should find scapegoats in this situation, but it is important to work ahead and find good solutions together with the pilots and the Officers' Association,” she added.
Sweden's fighter force comprises a total of three flotillas with a total of 96 type JAS 39 Gripen aircraft. In addition to the JAS 39 Gripen, the Swedish Air Force hosts a number of different aircraft and helicopter systems for, among other things, reconnaissance, transport, sea rescue and submarine hunting.