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The Saab Gripen will finally get its combat credentials. The Swedish air force expects the first of its JAS-39 Gripens to be operating over Libya by the middle of next week.The deployment of eight aircraft is now being readied after political approval was granted. How much action the Swedish fighters will actually see in their conflict debut is another matter. The force will be used only for enforcing the no-fly zone and not to attack ground targets as other Scandinavian air forces are doing. So far, there have been no air-to-air engagements in the conflict, although Swedish military officials say some elements of the Libyan air force remain and that the threat of air defenses also exists. The Swedish move means that, finally, all the European combat aircraft will have some wartime credentials, although only Rafale is actually engaging targets while the Eurofighter Typhoon and Gripen remain politically or operationally limited in their roles. Also marking its combat debut will be the Erieye airborne early warning system, which is part of the Swedish air force's contribution to the U.N. operation, now under NATO command. A C-130 transport will support the detachment.Most of the 130 persons were already on alert for Nordic Battlegroup operations, the Swedish military notes.
ar99, Gripen, Saab, Libya
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