BRITISH AEROSPACE and Saab will unveil formally a joint marketing, support and manufacturing agreement covering the Swedish manufacturer's JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft at the Paris air show later this month.

The deal has been under negotiation for the past two years, with the Swedish and UK Governments signing a memorandum of understanding covering an industrial agreement.

An initial deal was concluded between the two companies at the end of January to allow a process similar to that of "due diligence" to take place.

The agreement provides BAe Military Aircraft with a product, which sits comfortably between the Hawk trainer/fighter family and the Eurofighter 2000 air-superiority fighter.

The two companies are expected to develop export versions of the fighter, to be available by the end of the decade. Saab has also been examining engine and avionics update options for a proposed JAS39C Gripen upgrade with enhanced data-handling capability.

One advantage of the deal accruing to Saab is that it will allow the Gripen to be marketed to states which were previously off limits to the company because of Sweden's tight arms-export legislation.

Source: Flight International