Sweden, Switzerland cement Gripen pact

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The Swedish and Swiss governments have signed a framework agreement to cooperate on the Saab Gripen E/F, with their air forces to potentially acquire up to a combined 82 of the new-generation combat aircraft.

Signed in late August, the pact is the result of discussions conducted between the nations since Switzerland selected the Gripen E/F last November for a planned 22-aircraft deal to replace its Northrop F-5 fighters.

Reaffirming its commitment in a 28 August report, the Swiss defence ministry outlined a plan to allocate an initial Swfr300 million ($314 million) to the acquisition in 2014, as part of a fixed-price deal worth Swfr3.1 billion. Bern expects to sign a contract with Sweden late next year, or by mid-2014 should it be required to hold a public referendum over the purchase.

 

Saab

Swiss pilots flew Saab's Gripen F demonstrator earlier this year

If a deal is approved, the Swiss air force will receive its first 11 E-model fighters and F-model trainers between mid-2018 and 2019, with the remainder to follow within the next two years. Its aircraft would be capable of performing air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance tasks, the defence ministry says.

Switzerland's introduction of the aircraft could also be preceded by a proposed five-year lease deal for eight Gripen Cs and three Gripen Ds, which would be made available by Sweden for an annual cost of Swfr44 million between 2016 and 2020.

The Swedish government has, meanwhile, proposed including the acquisition of between 40 and 60 new Gripens in its Budget 2013 process, which will be launched on 20 September. The move would be supported in part by a suggested overall SKr2 billion ($300 million) increase in defence spending to be implemented over the next 10 years, it says.

Saab has already submitted a tender to Stockholm for the planned E/F deal, under which deliveries would commence with a first batch of three aircraft to be handed over in the second quarter of 2018, followed by five more fighters by 2020. The Swedish parliament will later this year debate the proposal, which the government says is necessary for the nation's defence capability, "but also positive for Swedish jobs, exports and research and development".

Flightglobal's MiliCAS database records the Swedish air force as operating a fleet of 180 JAS 39 Gripens, including almost 80 C/D-model examples. The service is expected to continue operating the type until beyond 2040.

Saab launched development activities on the then A/B-standard Gripen in 1982. Key aspects of the E/F variant include extended-range performance and supercruise capability, plus the introduction of an active electronically scanned array radar and MBDA Meteor beyond visual-range air-to-air missiles.