Switzerland has reportedly made the first move to become the fifth country outside Sweden to acquire the Saab Gripen fighter. If export sales were dogfight kills, the Gripen would now be an ace. [Update: Counting the Gripen sale to the UK Empire Test Pilot School, Switzerland is actually the sixth export customer. The foreign air force operators are the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand.]
The news is still based on unnamed sources within the federal council, but the reports from both Swiss and French media (including the Dassault-owned Le Figaro newspaper) are unanimous: the Gripen has been selected.
That means the Dassault Rafale can add another country to its list of export rejections. The Eurofighter Typhoon was also considered in the final selection process. The Boeing F/A-18E/F also was once offered to Switzerland, but it was withdrawn by US officials from the competition two years ago.
UPDATE: Saab has now confirmed the Gripen’s victory. Here’s the statement:
Saab is both proud and delighted that Gripen has been chosen as the Swiss Air Force’s future multirole fighter aircraft.
“The Swiss type-selection confirms that Saab is a market-leader in the defence and security industry and that Gripen is a world-class fighter system that provides the best value for money”, says Håkan Buskhe, President and CEO Saab.
The Gripen programme will create a long-term partnership between Switzerland and Sweden. Saab assures Switzerland a long-term strategic industrial co-operation aimed at creating sustainable high tech jobs, transferring technology and generating export business.
Saab stands prepared to start negotiations and await the next steps of the process.
UPDATE 2: The Federal Council has issued a statement. According to Google translator, here’s what they said:
“With the Gripen, the Federal Council decided on a fighter aircraft that meets the military requirements, but also medium and long term for the VBS and the army is affordable because it is much cheaper not only in procurement than the other two planes but also in operating costs. The decision for the Gripen offers a guarantee that a high-performance combat aircraft can be obtained, without compromising other areas of the army and the necessary equipment.“