Norway has rejected Saab’s Gripen NG as a potential replacement for its Lockheed Martin F-16s, with its government recommending that the nation maintain its commitment to a projected $20.5 billion purchase of the US manufacturer’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"The JSF is the only candidate that fulfils all the operational requirements specified by the Norwegian government, and is offered at a lower price than the Gripen NG," the nation’s defence ministry announced on 20 November.
© Team JSF
Buying a fleet of 48 conventional take-off and landing F-35As will cost NKr18 billion ($2.5 billion), it says, with the programme’s value expected to rise to NKr145 billion over a 30-year service period. Saab’s rival Gripen NG would be up to NKr6 billion more expensive to acquire, and cost NKr20-30 billion more in life-cycle costs, according to Oslo’s analysis.
The performance of both aircraft were evaluated against one international and three domestic scenarios included in Norway's long-term defence plan, and defence minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen says: "The JSF is considered to be the better of the two candidates regarding intelligence and surveillance, counter-air, air interdict and anti-surface warfare." The defence ministry says the F-35 also beat the Gripen NG in terms of its stealth and sensor capabilities and electronic warfare equipment.
The analysis found that while the Gripen NG met a requirement for international operations, but fell short on all three domestic scenarios. The government concludes: “The Gripen NG does not satisfy Norwegian requirements.”
Describing the decision as “outstanding news”, Lockheed says: "The MoD’s selection of the F-35 to help ensure Norway's national security will also bring substantial opportunities for Norwegian industry. We are committed to supporting the Norwegian government in moving forward with the F-35."
The decision comes as a major blow to Saab, which is also pitching the Gripen NG (pictured below, in Norwegian markings) against the JSF in Denmark and the Netherlands. "I am disappointed and surprised about the Norwegian government's decision, because Gripen fulfils all the operational requirements, to a fixed and known price,” says Saab chief executive Åke Svensson.
© Gripen International
“Gripen is a very competitive combat aircraft on the international market and we will now continue to focus on all the other countries where procurement processes are ongoing and Gripen is an alternative,” says Svensson.
The Norwegian parliament is expected to vote on the fighter decision on 19 December, with deliveries to the Royal Norwegian Air Force expected to take place from 2016-20.