The Swedish Air Force is plowing SEK2 billion (U.S.$230 million) into new equipment to allow it to resume Cold War–style operations from road runways.

The money is being invested in equipment for snow clearance and rapid runway repairs, Maj. Gen. Mats Helgesson, chief of the Swedish Air Force, told journalists in Paris on June 18.

Sweden has famously deployed its jets onto highways and general aviation airfields since the early years of the Cold War to increase their chances of surviving an expected Soviet attack. The dispersed basing systems such as the Ba90 actually shaped the requirements of Swedish fighters, in particular the Viggen and more recently the Gripen.

However, the skill of operating from roads has faded since the end of the Cold War, and Sweden’s focus on more international operations meant the need for the practice has gone away. However, the resurgence of a more belligerent Russia, military activity in the Baltic and a renewed Swedish focus on national defense has prompted the air force to return to the regimen.

Helgesson said the air force was “very heavily investing in this [capability] right now,” as it faced unfriendly neighbors, in reference to Russia.

The dispersed operations are expected to feature heavily in an upcoming nation exercise called Aurora, which will test the country’s armed services’, national guard’s and government agencies’ ability to deal with a national emergency. Some 19,000 personnel will take part in the exercise planned for September.

Helgesson said the armed forces was benefiting from an SEKR10.2 billion increase in defense spending until 2020. The increase was helping them to rebuild capabilities including the establishment of a battle group on the strategic Baltic island of Gotland to be equipped with mechanized and armored units. 

Although the focus is now on the development and service entry of the new Gripen E, the first prototype of which flew on June 15 prior to the Paris Air Show, Helgesson said it was preparing to make a decision on a life extension for the air force’s six Lockheed C-130H Hercules to see them through to around 2030.

The upgrade, likely to begin in the next 2-3 years, would address new navigational and air traffic control requirements and any airframe issues. Helgesson also said that the air force planned a further request for information to probe the market on a future training system to replace the aging Saab 105/Sk60 trainer, which has been in service for 50 years. The fleet will likely have to soldier on until 2024-25, he added.