Saab has outlined its proposal to supply the Croatian air force with 12 Gripen multirole fighters from 2011, with the design facing competition from rivals including the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 and RSK MiG-35.

The Swedish manufacturer briefed local media in Zagreb on 10 April, two weeks after submitting its response to a late 2007 request for proposals from the Croatian government. The Croatian air force must replace its 12 MiG-21bis fighters (below) within the next three years, with the aircraft - some of which are already not operational - to run out of structural life by this point.

MiG-21 Croatia 
© Dino Kucic

Supported by Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), and worth €700 million ($1.1 billion), Saab's Gripen proposal is based on the supply of 10 single-seat Gripen Cs and two two-seat Gripen D fighters. The Swedish partners have already succeeded in the sale or lease of 34 Gripens to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand.

Croatian laws require an offset commitment of at least 100%, and Saab says it will meet this requirement if selected to supply the Gripen. Swedish officials say it could also be possible to divert some aircraft to be produced for the Swedish air force to Croatia to meet its 2011 delivery requirements. "We believe the proposal we have submitted is very competitive," says Jerry Lindbergh, the FMV's sales manager for central and eastern Europe.

Croatia, which was invited to join NATO during the alliance's Bucharest summit in Romania in early April, is expected to make a decision on its new fighter fleet later this year.

Saab will, meanwhile, stage a roll-out ceremony for its Gripen NG (Next Generation) demonstrator (artists' impression, below) in Linköping on 23 April, with the aircraft expected to undergo its first test flight later this year.

 Gripen demo
© Saab