The Hungarian Government has extended its 1995 industrial offset protocol with Saab of Sweden, confirming the JAS39 Gripen as a candidate for the Central European country's fighter requirement.

The extension was signed on 22 January at the end of a visit to Sweden by a delegation from the Hungarian trade and industry ministry, including Secretary of State Peter Balas.

"The main impact is that the Hungarians are signalling that they are still very keen to start up the procurement process [for a new fighter]. We are now awaiting a formal decision by the Hungarian parliament to put forward the tender documents," says Saab vice president industrial co-operation Jan Narlinge. The delegation indicated that a tender may be issued this year, he adds.

Saab's chief competitors in this and other Central and Eastern European fighter requirements are Dassault, with its Mirage 2000, Lockheed Martin, offering several versions of its F-16, and McDonnell Douglas, bidding with its F-18. Hungary has a requirement for about 30 aircraft to replace its ageing Soviet-built fighter force.

According to Saab, the aim of the co-operation protocol is "-to generate an economic benefit for Hungary which exceeds the value of purchasing Gripen".

This is to be achieved by increased direct investment, the creation of "thousands" of new jobs and a "measurable rise" in export revenue for Hungary, according to the company.

Since 1995, Saab's Budapest office has been working with Hungarian companies to help them meet quality and other requirements as suppliers and subcontractors. This is being carried out with local universities, and focuses mainly on regions which most need investment.


Source: Flight International