Gripen wins in Brazil

Just when we were starting to think that 2013 was maybe heading into a graceful news wind-down, Brazil surprised us by announcing that it would be making a decision in its FX-2 contest today – and then surprised us again by picking Saab’s Gripen NG.

The timing of this came as a complete surprise to me, and I suspect probably to the companies involved too. The Swedish manufacturer had already had a busy and successful day, announcing the signature of a deal worth $2.5 billion to modify 60 of the Swedish air force’s Gripen Cs to its enhanced E-model configuration, for delivery from 2018. There may well be some champagne corks popping in chilly Linköping this evening, although final contract negotiations in Brazil have some months to run yet.

You can read about the decision here, including a response from Dassault on the Rafale’s rejection.


For headline-generating potential, FX-2 has never disappointed – remember that ill-fated Team Rafale victory announcement made by then-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy way back in 2009? It would be wrong to berate Dassault for not having subsequently clinched the planned 36-aircraft deal though, as the announcement was a political one, and opposed even at that time by the Brazilian air force. Ultimately, Brazil wanted a successor for its Northrop F-5s, and that is the job that the Gripen (Saab image above) is right-sized to achieve, versus twin-engined rivals the Rafale and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

So, has the long-running FX-2 process reached its conclusion, or will further twists await us over the next few months? And is Brazil going for the right fighter to meet its needs; militarily, economically and politically? With Saab promising full freedom to integrate its own systems – as on the F-5EM – it looks like that could well be the case, despite Dassault’s protestations of having a more capable product.

31 Responses to Gripen wins in Brazil

  1. Remarkable Kanoodle 19 December, 2013 at 12:18 am #

    Sounds like a perfect match. Who is Brazil going to war with that they need a more sophisticated aircraft? Bolivia?

    • Marcelo 20 December, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      Not Bolivia, but Venezuela has Su-30s…

  2. MrSatyre 19 December, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Seeing as how the F-5 is (was?) also a twin-engined plane, I’m not sure I follow your statement: “Ultimately, Brazil wanted a successor for its Northrop F-5s, and that is the job that the Gripen (Saab image above) is right-sized to achieve, versus twin-engined rivals the Rafale and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.”

    Unless you’re referring to the overall dimensions of the two airframes being similar? I thought the YF-17 was based on the F-5′s frame, so I would think the FA-18 wouldn’t be that much bigger.

    • Craig Hoyle 19 December, 2013 at 7:36 am #

      Fair point – I was thinking size of the aircraft! I think Dassault’s statement says it all – how could we lose, when Rafale is much bigger and way more expensive? Same thing happened in the Swiss contest. Super Hornet just doesn’t seem to be ticking boxes for people in competitions, and Boeing badly need to extend production now.

      • mike 20 December, 2013 at 2:21 am #

        The Rafale makes the F-35 look inexpensive. lol 90 to 145 million OMG. The Rafale other problem is every part is made in France part of Mitterand socialist nightmare. The F-18 SH has parts manufactured all over the world so when needed you can get it straight from the manufacturer, storage warehouse that US military has all over the world. So who you want to deal with? Mmmm ask the Indian Air Force. Yes the F-18 lacks range however I found a nice link to a copy of the Boeing Proposal to the Indian Air Force.

        • xXx 1 January, 2014 at 11:26 am #

          the F18 and F35 was rejected because F18 test fail at technical evaluation,
          and F35 to immature and to costly jet fighter and not adapted for india, USA help Pakistan by selling jet fighter and providing fund, and make some embargo to India, India don’t forget that, that why USA are considerate
          as hostile country for india. Europe/BAE is considerate to proach of USA.
          The gripen E doesnt exist, it is a gripen C/D adapted for test some component like AESA, India dont realy appreciate the cocktail of non existent paper jet NG. Swiss and Brazil, dont know yet where they go.
          but they go, because the gripen NG is not existing, not proved, limited, and surely inefficient for projection, war electronic, sead, cas, anti ship, nuke strike, face to discret/stealh jet like J20/J31, F35, rafale, T50, F22, it would be not able to have the right answer in 10 years. but for sky defense and air police, it would be enought for Brazil, no threat. Not
          the case for India between Pakistan and China at border, they need jet fighter for war.

    • Dave 19 December, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      The original FA-18 may not have been much bigger, but the E shares very little with the C model bar the name, and is significantly larger.

    • S O 19 December, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

      Both the Tiger II and the Gripen were designed for very easy maintenance (Gripen is meant to be maintained in part by conscripts) and operation from ‘austere’ airfields. Both are relatively lightweight, relatively low thirst designs.

      Rafale and Super Hornet were meant to be 90% solutions and ended up being a bit disappointing (Rafale is apparently clearly inferior to Typhoon in air combat, Super Bug has shorter range than intended).

      • Ed 20 December, 2013 at 12:43 am #

        This is probably just a personal way of looking at it (and I’m nitpicking regardless), but I’d sooner call the Gripen the 90% solution than the other contenders. Any percentage is a relative, and I think the Rafale and Super Hornet would more than fulfill Brazil’s requirement. :)

      • syntaxerror9 23 December, 2013 at 2:21 am #

        Apparently, Rafale is clearly superior to Typhoon in all missions tested by Armaswiss.

        First: Rafale.
        Second: Typhoon.
        Third: Gripen.

        Flightglobal journalist (former fighter pilot) report having flown the Rafale:
        “If i had to go to war, il would choose the Rafale.”

        • Craig Hoyle 23 December, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

          And which one could the Swiss afford to buy within budget? Not Rafale. I think you should also bear in mind that the Rafale tested by the Swiss had an AESA radar in it – Typhoon didn’t at that time – so that might have swayed the opinion of the evaluators a bit. Also please note that our test pilot hasn’t flown the Typhoon or Gripen. And as a journalist writing – if I had to go to war in something, I’d pick the B-2!

      • syntaxerror9 23 December, 2013 at 11:39 am #

        Check the Armaswiss results after having tested Gripen, Typhoon and Rafale:
        For all missions tested, the result was:
        1st: Rafale
        2nd: Typhoon
        3rd: Gripen

        • S O 30 December, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

          (a) Your ID links to a francophone page, so there may be some bias at work (disclaimer: I’m German, so maybe bias in favour of Typhoon, even though I dislike the program).

          (b) Why don’t you link to “the Armaswiss results”?

    • Atomic Walrus 26 December, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      Try to keep in mind that Northrop’s successor to the F-5 was supposed to be the F-20, which also used a single F404 engine in place of twin J85s.

  3. Dan 19 December, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    The rationale of choosing a smaller and cheaper fighter certainly seems to make sense in Brazil’s case. But if that is the rationale, why not look at the F-16? It would have been cheaper still, far more sophisticated than Brazil’s current fighters and it has the attraction of having multiple sources for ongoing upgrades.

    • S O 20 December, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      Brazil is an upcoming country with newly gained self esteem and it has reaffirmed its freedom from U.S. foreign policy influence in regard to its domestic policies.

      To buy a 1970′s U.S.-made fighter-bomber in 2014 doesn’t fit in this at all.

      • Mike 22 December, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

        That’s a cheap shot. Just because the basic design dates to the 1970′s does not make it that era of an airframe. The Super Hornet was developed the same time Eurofighter and Rafale were conceived.

        This is the problem Boeing has, letting cheap shot opinions overtake facts.

        • Daniel Kramer 23 December, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

          The F-16 design is so aged that you can see it by looking at its new use in US: Flying target (QF-16, replacing the phantons). Cheap? Yes. Better than the current Brazilian inventory aicraft? Perhaps (the F-5 were modernized few years ago, and it still kicks ass in ACM on the US agressor squadrons). The right choice? No way!!

      • Dan 24 December, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

        That’s not true at all. The latest version F-16s have the latest technology and have even been years ahead of the Typhoon, Gripen and Rafale in adopting such technology, AESA for instance. There’s a huge installed base of such aircraft which guarantees that any future advances will quickly be rolled out to the F-16 as well.

        • Ed 27 December, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

          I believe the F-16 was never offered. If I’m not mistaken, typically governments put out a tender companies can respond to, and LockMart never did.

          Why? Well, responding to tenders costs money, and perhaps LockMart thought the F-16 stood little chance.

          This could be because:

          - Perhaps LockMart couldn’t meet Brazil’s support requirements
          - Perhaps LockMart was unwilling to meet Brazil’s tech transfer requirements
          - Perhaps LockMart didn’t consider that Brazil could be satisfied with a lower-end fighter, and thought that they would always prefer the F-18
          - Perhaps some unpublished technical requirements weren’t met
          - Perhaps the F-16 has some stigma of being old, and doesn’t really represent an improvement to their Air Force (whether this is true is a different thing, of course)

          Others speculate that due to the NSA Scandal, Brazil has lost interest in US hardware. This is understandable I suppose, as little trust remains in that the US would respect Brazil’s interests and souvereignity. Fighters do need a lot of support.

          • Dan 27 December, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

            Actually it was offered but was eliminated by the Brazilians in an earlier round. I’m simply pointing out that given their ultimate decision to go with a smaller, cheaper single engine fighter, the F-16 would have been another logical choice and potentially even cheaper to operate over its lifetime. The Brazilians have taken over a decade to decide the winner of their fighter competition. They did announce back in 2010 that the Rafale had won the competition but never followed through with a contract. They also considered used fighters earlier when the economics looked too hard and the F-16 had the inside track at that point.

          • Ed 5 January, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

            In reply to Dan:

            Then I was mistaken indeed. I do agree that, from a ‘distance’ at least, the Gripen seems closer to a modern F-16 than to the Rafale.

            It would be interesting to know their considerations. Of course the Gripen is ten years younger, what innovation or difference in specs caused it to be more desirable?

            Things like tech transfer and stigma could still be an explanation as well.

    • Patrik BP Andersson 21 December, 2013 at 5:52 am #

      Because you can fly three JAS 39 A/C for the cost of two F16:

      The CPFH will likely be somewhat higher on the JAS 39 E since the airframe is larger as is the engine, but still most cost-effective meaning the airforce can afford flight hours for both patrols and training… and great pilots in good planes beats great planes with untrained pilots.

      • Dan 24 December, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

        I think the costs are quite similar and the article pointed out that those numbers are approximations at best. The Gripen is slightly smaller and uses a slightly smaller engine so I suspect fuel burn would be the biggest difference in real life but it’s not a big enough reason to choose one over the other. One of the factors that any buyer should consider is the cost of keeping the aircraft current over the coming decades. There’s no other aircraft out there that has a larger installed base than the F-16 and the upgrade market is huge. Saab will undoubtedly work to keep the Gripen current but any development costs will have to be spread over a relatively small fleet.

        • Cocidius 8 January, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

          The cost of operating both aircraft are well known and the Gripen requires roughly half the O&S as the F-16.

          Throw in a more modern composite air frame, a superior data link (much better than Link 16), and now AESA and Saab’s aircraft is clearly better for Brazil.

          BTW – ask any F-16 pilot how it is to fight a Gripen in DACT. Plenty of Vipers have found themselves in the gun sight of a Gripen at Red Flag!

          • Snowman 15 January, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

            Spot on Cocidius!

  4. K.B. 27 December, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Costs and capabilities are only a (little) part of the decision.

    The most important factor is the industry.
    If Embraer gets the rights to further develop the fighter on its own (weapon integration etc.) and sell it to Latin American countries, Brazil will dominate the latin american fighter market until 2030+.
    All the Kfirs, Mirages and F-16 will see the end of their lifespan in the next 10-20 years. The Gripen is the logical choice to replace the current fleets.

    • FGR 2 January, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

      Of course Brasil is a pacific country with no issues with its neighbours, but it seems to me that the countries in South America won’t buy a Brazilian fighter.
      Colombia would think about it… but I do not see Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela considering being in Brazilian hands for supporting their air forces.
      I see good prospects in Africa dough.
      Angola, Mozambique and some other African countries already have Embraer turboprop Tucanos in their air forces… and believe me; in a political agreement they might take Brazilian lines of credit for buying fighters.

      • Craig Hoyle 3 January, 2014 at 10:28 am #

        If Brazil gets the rights to adapt the Gripen as it wants to, and also to offer it for selected export prospects, then would sales in Latin America really be that unrealistic? Embraer has already sold the Super Tucano regionally to Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Peru, with four of those using it in an armed configuration, and has Argentina, Chile and Colombia on its books as possible KC-390 operators. Sounds like Brazil is in a good position (albeit from where I sit in Europe)!

  5. carlos martìnez 15 January, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    All your replys are from the aeronautic and tech. point of view, it´s all right…
    But don´t forget the implications of telephone calls scandal envolving also the
    US. intelligence?? services and President of Brasil, Dilma Rouseff.
    What you see is a reaction of unger from Brasil.
    They choose the best fighter for the needs and also make a statement…

    • Craig Hoyle 17 January, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      Does anyone really think that Super Hornet didn’t win in Brazil because of the Snowden leaks? I don’t!

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