Poland is likely to be the first former Warsaw Pact nation to buy Western combat aircraft, with US and European manufacturers offering their wares. MAPO-MiG has also been offering licence-production. A defence ministry commission reported in February that co-operation with Saab in producing the JAS39 Gripen would be the best choice for the Polish air force and industry. The ministry says that the report simply lists the advantages and disadvantages of all the contenders, which include the Dassault Mirage 2000, Lockheed Martin F-16 and MAPO-MiG MiG-29.

In the Czech Republic, a Czech/US "commission of experts" recommended in March that the air force lease seven unmodernised F-16As for five years, for about 2 billion korunas ($73 million), then purchase 18 modernised F-16A/Bs for delivery from 1998, for 5-6 billion korunas, then buy another 18 after 2007.

Hungary has announced that the Gripen meets air force requirements, but that a competition will be held once parliament has approved the Government's decision to buy new aircraft for delivery beginning in 2000 to replace its MiG-21s and -23s. Competitors will include the F-16, McDonnell Douglas F-18, Mirage 2000-5 and MiG-29.

Requirements will include long-term credit with favourable interest rates, guarantees to buy Hungarian exports and investments in Hungary worth at least the value of the order - expected to be around 200 billion florints ($1.4 billion).

Norway may narrow the choice for its F-5 replacement programme in late 1996, reducing the field to two, or possibly three contenders. The F-18, F-16, Eurofighter EF2000, Dassault Rafale and Gripen are in contention. Although Norway has been briefed on the US Joint Strike Fighter, the aircraft "...is too far out in terms of availability" unless the F-5 replacement slips by a few years. A decision may be reached in late 1998, with a letter of acceptance scheduled for August 1999. First deliveries of the aircraft would follow in 2002.

Austria needs a fighter to replace its Saab Drakens. Discussions have been held with Switzerland on the potential benefits of Austria buying the F-18 and sharing support costs with Switzerland, which needs to replace its Mirage IIIs from 2006 and its Northrop F-5s around 2010. If funds become available before 2000, the air force would like a second batch of F-18s, otherwise a new fighter competition would be held.

Source: Flight International