Saab and industrial partners including Embraer are to start work on 36 Gripen NG fighters formally ordered by Brazil with the signing on 27 October of a SKr39.3 billion ($5.8 billion) contract for delivery over five years, starting in 2019.
The deal – under negotiation since December 2013, when Brazil selected the Gripen over Dassault's Rafale and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for its F-X2 requirement – is for 28 single-seat and eight two-seat aircraft, and makes Brazil the export launch customer for the NG model.
About 15 of the aircraft will be assembled in Brazil and the rest in Sweden, although 150 Brazilian engineers and a number of technicians will soon be arriving in Sweden for training and to participate in the assembly of some of the aircraft.
Lennart Sindahl, who heads Saab’s aeronautics business, says the single-seaters will be similar to the E-model Gripens under development for the Swedish air force. As part of a technology transfer plan, the two-seaters will include some Brazil-specific design features and will be developed with the help of the engineers being dispatched to Sweden.
The two-seaters will therefore, adds Sindahl, be delivered later in the five-year delivery cycle.
The Gripens will replace Dassault Mirage 2000C fighters operated by Brazil’s 1st Air Defence Group and a number of modernised Northrop F-5EMs in four other air force squadrons.
Co-design with Saab of some aspects of the two-seaters will open a new phase of development of Brazil’s – particularly Embraer’s – military aircraft capabilities. Sindahl, speaking by telephone after the contract signing, did not detail whether or not Brazilian final assembly work would include some or all of the two-seaters. However, in July Embraer chief executive Frederico Curado said Brazil’s assembly point would be Embraer’s military factory and flight test centre in Gavião Peixoto.
Citing commercial confidentiality, Sindahl declines to remark on the apparent increase to about $5.8 billion in the price of a contract that was announced as some $4.5 billion when the Gripen was selected. However, he did underscore Saab’s reputation for “efficiency”.