Midnight Sun Air Show

Luleň-Kallax, Sweden, 14 June 2003

 

The annual Swedish Air Force Open House for 2003 took place at Luleň-Kallax Air Base. Kallax is Sweden's moth northerly situated base and is only a few tens of miles removed from the Arctic Circle. Hence the title of Midnight Sun Air Show as the sun never sets during this time of the year. The base is home to F21 Norrbottens Flygflottilj of the Flygvapnet as the Swedes call their Air Force. F21 operates two squadrons, one fighter squadron known as the 2. JAS Division (Fighter-Attack-Recce squadron) with the new SAAB JAS-39 Gripen, the other known as the 1. Spaningsdivision (recce squadron) with the older SAAB AJSF-37 and AJSH-37 Viggen. 

Being situated so far north in a lightly populated area also meant that the air show had the atmosphere of a village festival, a welcome change from some of the overcrowded events elsewhere in Europe. Despite the isolated location of Luleň some non-Swedish aircraft had made it to the Midnight Sun Air Show, including a pair of USAFE F-15E's.

Below a selection of the participants in thid most northerly military event of the 2003 calendar.

 

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink.

 


Once the mainstay of the Flygvapnet, the mighty SAAB 37 Viggen is now fast disappearing from the ranks. This is a photo reconnaissance configured AJSF-37, serialled 37976/66 converted from an SF-37. A few years ago, the Flygvapnet assigned a number of the recce Viggens to a unit known as SWAFRAP (for Swedish Air Force Rapid Deployment) tasked with operations in an international setting. 

The SWAFRAP mission will pass to F17 and the Gripen at Ronneby during 2004.

The other recce version of the Viggen is the AJSH-37. Built as an SH-37 for maritime reconnaissance and equipped with more modern systems in an upgrade programme similar to that of the SF-37, this aircraft is something of a puzzle. It bears the unit identifier for F7 wing which briefly operated this particular version during the mid 1990's shortly before converting to the JAS-39 Gripen. 

Unlike the AJSF-37 seen above it still is in the remarkable splinter camouflage scheme unique to Viggens for a major part of the aircraft's carreer.

The pride of the Swedish Air Force of today, the SAAB JAS-39A Gripen. 39203/203 from F21 taxies back to it's parking spot follwing it's solo demonstration at Luleň-Kallax. The Gripen is one of a trio of Western European fighters to have been developed during the 1990's, the others being the French Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter. The Rafale is in limited service now, the Eurofighter will be next year. The Gripen already forms the Flygvapnet's backbone.

In the static park one could see the latest version of the Gripen, the JAS-39C. Most important external point of difference with the older version above is the air refuelling probe here seen extended. JAS-39C also has many systems upgrades to make it more NATO compatible. Of course, it's ability to be air refuelled should be a major selling point on the export market for aircraft like 39211/211.

 

From the very new to the very old; a SAAB B-17 taxies past the crowd on it's way to Luleň-Kallax's runway. Not to be confused with Boeing's B-17, the SAAB B-17 was nevertheless from the same 1940's era. It was a dive bomber that served in the Flygvapnet until the late 1940's. 17239/J is known as SE-BYH on Sweden's civil register and is the only one left flying in the world.

 

Boeing's E-3 Sentry is not the only Airborne Early Warning in service in the world. There are many more and Sweden's SAAB S-100B Argus, based on the SAAB 340 regional airliner, is one of them. Mounted on top of the roof of 100006/006 is Ericsson's EriEye radar installation. Flown by the FSR Division within F16 at Malmen, the Argus can be relatively easily converted to the transport role by removing the antenna and associated systems built in the fuselage. 

Neighbouring Finland was also present at Luleň-Kallax with a trio of F-18C Honets, presumably from HńvLLv 11 (Fighter Sqadron 11) based at Rovaniemi. F-18C HN-424 is particularly well hung for it's air defence mission with no less than six AIM-120 AMRAAM air to air missiles in addition to a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinders. Of course, these are all dummy weapons, but it does show the type's capabilities.

In contrast, HN-448 is completely clean with respect to external stores, as it had given it's display during the show. For safety reasons, the runway was rather a long way off rom the crowdline, making photography with anything less than a 400 mm lens quite difficult. Fortunately, it was possible to take taxi shots like this one.  

One of the two Royal Norwegian Air Force's F-16's to be displayed in the static park was this example, 660, from 331 Skvadron based at Bod° Air Base. 331 Skv had celebrated it's 60th annviversary in 2001 and the jet's tailfin was marked accordingly. 

Rotary winged aircraft are nowadays operated by a joint Air Force, Army and Navy command. A new addition to Sweden's military helicopter fleet is the Agusta A.109E Power, known as Hkp-15 in Swedish service. However, despite wearing Swedish roundels, this example I-POWR is only leased from Agusta for training crews and pending delivery of Sweden's own A.109's. Sweden plan to use the A.109 for tactical training and transport of personnell. Eight of the twenty on order will be outfitted for naval missions.

A more unexpected visitor to the Midnight Sun Air Show was this Italian Air Force Dassault Falcon 50 MM62020 from 31 Stormo.  

 

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