Sweden has placed its first contract with Saab linked to the introduction of 60 new-generation Gripen E fighters from 2018.

Announced in mid-February, the development forms part of a potentially SKr47.2 billion ($7.4 billion) deal to field the single-seat combat aircraft, which has design features including extended-range performance, an active electronically scanned array radar and internally carried weapons.

Saab has received an initial SKr2.5 billion development order from Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) covering activities in 2013-14, with a further SKr10.6 billion award also due in the first quarter of this year. A main deal covering the modification of 60 C-model Gripens to the new operating standard should be concluded by the end of 2013, the company says, with a support contract linked to an initial batch of aircraft likely to be signed by late 2014. Final deliveries are due during 2026 under the agreement.

The Swedish parliament recently approved plans to proceed with the Gripen E programme, with their action also important with regard to a planned Swiss air force purchase of 22 new-build examples. The total SKr47.2 billion programme includes the projected purchase and support costs for the Swiss fighters. However, Saab notes: "The agreement also includes sections regulating the conditions should Switzerland decide not to acquire Gripen E", and also for the FMV "to fully or partly make cancellations", with compensation clauses attached.

"We are proud to continue to deliver a world-leading fighter aircraft to the Swedish air force," says Saab president and chief executive Håkan Buskhe. "This next step also creates more opportunities in the export market for many years to come." Current Gripen operators could also use elements of the E-model package as part of future upgrades, he adds.

Meanwhile, Saab says its two-seat development aircraft for the Gripen E programme has now accumulated more than 250 flight hours, including deployments to India, Switzerland and the UK.

Gripen Red Flag - Swedish air force 

Lasse Jansson/Swedish air force

The Swedish air force recently sent Gripen Cs to a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB

Separately, the FMV on 19 February placed a SKr140 million order with Saab linked to the Swedish air force's existing Gripen C/Ds. The work includes a modification to add lighting to the aircraft's in-flight refuelling probe to assist in night-time operations with tankers, and acquiring equipment linked to its reconnaissance pod and small diameter bomb.

Source: Flight International