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Sweden Air Force Targets C-130 Upgrade Decision in 2014

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June 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Swedish air force plans to decide whether to upgrade or replace its fleet of eight Lockheed Martin Corp. C-130 transport planes as part of a 10-year strategic program due to be formalized next year.

Replacement of aging SK60 jets for training pilots also is starting to gain Swedish military planners’ attention, service chief Major General Micael Byden told reporters yesterday on the eve of the Paris Air Show.

Sweden’s military-equipment upgrade decisions in recent years include a commitment in February to back development of and buy 60 Gripen E fighters from domestic manufacturer Saab AB. The C-130s are being used in Afghanistan and are set to support United Nations operations in Mali for four months starting in October, Byden said.

“We have to do something with our transport fleet,” Lt. Col. Tommy Petersson, requirements officer for Sweden’s air force, said at the press briefing. The current airframe should last until about 2030 if the systems are modernized, he said.

The trainer program is less well defined, with a target of having new aircraft in service around 2020, Petersson said. Sweden wants to set up partnerships with other countries for a joint modernization plan that would influence the type and number of aircraft to be ordered.

Helicopter Fleet

Military operations in Afghanistan forced Sweden to quickly acquire UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters from United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky unit to meet operational needs in Afghanistan because the competing NH90 model intended for the role wasn’t ready. The U.S. helicopters have now reached full operational status, Byden said.

Development of the NH90 is progressing, albeit slowly, Byden said. Sweden doesn’t expect to reach full operational status with the rotorcraft, built by partners including Finmeccanica SpA’s AgustaWestland unit and Eurocopter SAS of European Aeronautics, Defence & Space Co., until 2020, he said.

“We are taking it step by step,” Byden said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Wall in Paris via rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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