Having dipped a toe in the water at Asian Aerospace 2004, Gripen International has increased the level of its participation at this year’s show.

It is exhibiting a full-scale mock-up of the Gripen fighter, allowing the public full access to the aircraft, including a chance to sit in the cockpit and to talk to a Gripen pilot. The mock-up is close to the main entrance, surrounded by an extensive range of weapons.
Goh Gripen W445
Felicia Juliet Goh getting to grips with the Gripen

Gripen International is claiming to be “launching” Gripen into the Asian region at Asian Aerospace 2006, which Bob Kemp, Gripen International director of sales, describes as an “important and highly prestigious event at which to launch Gripen into the region” and as a “perfect opportunity to meet, discuss and demonstrate Gripen International’s product, services and partnership capabilities”.

Kemp points out that “Asia is clearly an emerging market for fighters in Gripen’s class. The aim with this exhibition is to increase our exposure as a true world player, and to generate further interest and resulting sales in the Asian region for the world’s most advanced multimisson/swingrole fighter aircraft in operation.”

Kemp adds: “This will be our largest-ever Asian Aerospace air show participation, but I would be surprised if we don’t bring aircraft for a full flying display next time.”

Gripen was the first of the new generation of fighters to achieve full operational status, and is now in full operational service with the Swedish air force and with NATO – with new member nation the Czech Republic. The aircraft has been designed for interoperability, and to be compatible with weapons and systems of US, European, Israeli and Eastern bloc origin.

Gripen is claimed by its manufacturers to be a generation ahead of competitors like the Lockheed Martin F-16, with real net-centric warfare capabilities designed in from the start. The Gripen was designed as a swing-role aircraft, able to undertake the air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance missions and to be able to change roles in the air with ease.
Gripen International has real prospects in Asia.

At one time, there were suggestions that these potential Gripen customers included both Pakistan and India, but a US offer of F-16s to Pakistan has killed off that prospect, and there is a recognition that it is not possible to “play both sides of the fence in that part of the world”, according to a senior Gripen International source.

However, the US offer of F-16s to Pakistan has undermined prospects for a US fighter in India, where 126 combat aircraft are required. The withdrawal of the Dassault Mirage 2000, once viewed as a front-runner (but whose production line cannot be kept open long enough to wait for an Indian order) has left Gripen in a strong position. Gripen International answered the Indian request for information in 2004 and expects a request for proposals this year.

But perhaps the most serious and immediate prospect for Gripen in the region is Thailand, where Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has publicly stated that Thailand is in favour of Gripen as its Northrop F-5 replacement aircraft.

This was confirmed by the commander in chief of the Royal Thai Air Force, Air Chief Marshall Kongsak Wantana, who says: “We have decided to select Gripen fighters to replace our F-5 fleet.” Two RTAF pilots - wing commanders Punpakdee Pattanakul and Manat Chuanprayon received an introductory course on the Gripen in May 2004, which included 10h of flying. Since then, there have been suggestions that Thai interest has turned to the cheaper Sukhoi Su-30, although Gripen is understood to remain the air force’s clear favourite.

Gripen is viewed by many as the perfect replacement for Singapore’s F-5s, offering the same mix of versatility, cost-effectiveness, and a real ability to operate from semi-prepared highway airstrips.

Elsewhere, Gripen remains hopeful of an eventual sale in Brazil, despite the collapse of the FX-BR competition, perhaps with a short-term lease to fill the interim requirement. Other prospects for Gripen include Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Venezuela.

Source: Flight Daily News