Hungary will continue operating its leased fleet of Saab Gripen C/D fighters until 2026, with Budapest having taken an early decision to extend its current arrangement with Sweden.

A government-to-government contract signed on 30 January will continue for a further 10 years a deal that has enabled the Hungarian air force to operate 12 single-seat Gripen Cs and two D-model trainers originally built for Sweden. The aircraft are flown from the service's Kecskémet air base.

Hungary selected the Gripen in November 2001, and took delivery of its first examples in 2006 under a lease-to-buy deal. Its entire fleet was operationally available by late 2008, with the type providing the NATO nation with a supersonic air policing capability to replace its retired RSK MiG-29 interceptors.

Gripen Hungary - Runlikehell gallery 

© Runlikehell gallery on

"We are delighted that Hungary has taken a long-term strategic decision to continue operating Gripen," said Ulf Hammarström, director general of Sweden's Defence and Security Export Agency.

According to Saab-led Gripen International, more than 10,000 new jobs have been created in Hungary as a result of a Swedish offset commitment worth 110% of the value of the nation's original 10-year deal.

Source: Flight International