The Swedish air force is to push for creation of a Saab JAS39 Gripen user group to drive down training, support and weapons integration costs and co-ordinate future upgrades. The idea is gathering momentum after Hungary on 30 March became the second export customer to take delivery of the Swedish fighter, around a year after the Czech Republic. South Africa is due to receive the Gripen in 2008.

“I will make an effort to establish a user group,” said Swedish Air Force chief Maj Gen Jan Andersson at last week’s handover at Kecskémet airbase near Budapest. The remit of such a group “has to come out of discussions” with the Gripen export customers, he added. Andersson last week informally discussed the idea with his Hungarian counterpart Maj Gen János Sági.

Hungarian defence minister Ferenc Juhász said the country expects its 14 Gripen C/Ds to reach full multi-role capability by 2009 and be made available to NATO in 2010. Hungary has received five of the aircraft under its lease-purchase deal – including a pair of two-seaters – and will receive five more single-seaters this year and the remaining four in 2007.

Gripen International, meanwhile, says the common Nordic industrial programme offered to Denmark and Norway could potentially expand in the long term to include the Baltic states as they develop their air forces, as well as Finland when it replaces its Boeing F-18s around 2015-18.


Source: Flight International