France wants to turn to the Swedish Saab GlobalEye to replace its Awacs planes

The possible acquisition, by France, of the Swedish Saab GlobalEye early warning system, to replace the AWACS E-3F Sentry of the Air and Space Force, will undoubtedly be one of the major subjects addressed by the French President, on the occasion of his official visit to Sweden, which begins on January 30, when Paris and Stockholm will deepen their industrial cooperation in defense matters.

But the issues of this visit could well go far beyond this single framework, which is already strategic. Indeed, everything indicates that on this occasion, the French president will discuss possible Swedish participation in the FCAS program, and perhaps even other ambitious cooperation, such as in the field of combat drones. Because, in many aspects, France and Sweden share the same vision in terms of defense and European industrial cooperation, but also similar needs.

Sweden, a major military and industrial defense nation in Europe

Although attached to its neutrality for a long time, or perhaps because of it, Sweden was, throughout the Cold War and afterwards, one of the European countries most sharing France's positions in Defense matters.

To ensure the protection of its immense territory, despite a relatively small population of only 8 million inhabitants in 1980, Stockholm had developed a powerful military tool, as well as a significant defense industry allowing it to produce the essential of its equipment, from submarines to combat aircraft.

Submarine A26 Blekinge
Sweden is one of the few countries capable of designing high-performance conventional submarines, such as the new A26 Blekinge class.

Like all European countries, Sweden let its guard down in the 2000s, with a defense budget so reduced that the Swedish armies only fielded 2 active operational battalions in 2015, compared to 15 brigades in 1990. However , Stockholm has never stopped supporting its defense industry, producing some particularly successful equipment such as the JAS 39 Gripen fighter, CV90 infantry fighting vehicle, or the A-19 submarine of the Götland class.

Above all, Sweden took stock of the evolution of the threat in Eastern Europe in 2016, reintroducing compulsory, but partial, military service in 2017, backed by a new so-called Global Defense doctrine, designed to deter a possible adversary from wanting to militarily seize the country.

Its budgetary implication has evolved proportionally over the same period. While Stockholm only devoted 1% of its GDP to its armies in 2015, or 55 billion crowns (€5 billion 2015), this was brought, in 2024, to 115 billion crowns (€10 billion 2024) and 2,1% of its GDP, allowing it to advance its defense system up to 3 brigades, as well as around twenty auxiliary battalions, ready within 48 hours by 2025.

Thus, if Sweden will soon join NATO, after the agreement given by the Turkish Parliament, it obviously continues to invest fully in its own defense, and in regional and European collective defense.

Emmanuel Macron's state visit to Sweden to deepen defense industrial ties between the two countries

It is in this context that French President Emmanuel Macron will begin a state visit to Sweden on January 30. If many subjects will be discussed between the French president and his Swedish counterpart, Ulf Kristersson, Franco-Swedish cooperation in European defense and defense industry will be at the top of the list.

Akheron Jaguar MMP missile
Paris and Stockholm will begin cooperation aimed at expanding the performance and capabilities of MBDA's Akheron anti-tank missile.

Indeed, if, as usual, Paris had tensed Stockholm, in 2018, after Sweden arbitrated in favor of the American Patriot anti-aircraft and anti-missile system, to the detriment of the Franco-Italian SAMP/T Mamba, relations were quickly normalized thereafter, with several effective defense industrial cooperations, which he This concerns anti-tank munitions (VT4 rockets, Akheron missile, Bonus shells), detection systems (giraffe radar, Awacs GlobalEye aircraft, etc.), and others.

Because if French and Swedish industries are often in competition, as in the case of Rafale facing the Gripen, Blekinge submarine facing the Scorpene or Marlin, or the CAESAR gun facing the Archer, they also know how to collaborate very well, as in the case of the Neuron program or the Meteor missile.

Above all, Paris and Stockholm share close positions regarding European defense industrial cooperation, and the strengthening of European strategic autonomy, even if Sweden remains a close partner, particularly in the field of the defense industry, of the States -United (Gripen engine, T-7A training aircraft, etc.).

France is considering the Saab GlobalEye to replace its 4 AWACS E-3F radar planes

To start the discussion, Emmanuel Macron will not arrive in Sweden only with nice words. Indeed, several Defense industrial cooperation programs will be launched during this visit, in particular concerning the evolution of MBDA's Akheron anti-tank missile, which will be equipped with new capabilities with Saab.

But the big issue of this visit will undoubtedly be the discussions which will be initiated between the two countries, to replace the 4 advanced air surveillance aircraft AWACS E-3F Sentry of the Air and Space Force, with the Swedish GlobalEye.

Will the Swedish Saab Globaleye replace the French E-3F?
An E-3F SDCA from the 36th Airborne Detection and Control Squadron. © A. Jeuland / Air Force

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