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T-X pact with Boeing a winner, says Saab boss

Saab chief executive Håkan Buskhe believes his company’s low-profile pursuit of the US Air Force’s T-X trainer requirement will pay dividends next year, when he hopes to win the 350-aircraft deal with its US partner Boeing.

“We have been extremely successful [in the past] being quiet,” he notes, referring to Saab’s international sales performance with products including the Gripen fighter. “That is also an important part of us being able to win this tender – and it proves our partnership is very tight,” he adds.

“When we started the discussion [with Boeing Defense, Space & Security chief executive Chris Chadwick] in 2010 we were very clear we had to do something that is unique – to do more for less,” Buskhe says. “For the last two-and-a-half years we have been working extremely [closely] together: the team is working very well, and we can see that we are fulfilling our aims.”

Continuing a practice of not revealing technical details about the proposed replacement for the USAF’s Northrop T-38C Talon fleet during an annual results conference in Stockholm on 10 February, he said: “I have huge belief that we will win the tender process.” A selection is anticipated next year, with a contract award for the requirement to follow around 2018, he adds.

Saab took a financial hit of undisclosed size last year through its forward-investment in the T-X project, with the sum greater than that accumulated during the 2014 accounting period. “This work will continue in 2016,” it adds.

Rivalry is already fierce for the major training fleet renewal opportunity, with other bidders expected to include Alenia Aermacchi, Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries and Northrop Grumman. “When the time is right, we will make our moves,” Bushke says.

Meanwhile, the Saab chief executive also declines to reveal when the company expects to conduct the first flight with its lead prototype of the new-generation Gripen E. Final assembly work on aircraft 39-8 is, however, “going tremendously well”, he comments.

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