Saab's Gripen programme has received a major boost, with the Swiss government confirming its selection of the type to replace its air force's Northrop F-5s.

Announced on 30 November, the decision to choose the Gripen comes at the expense of rival offers from Dassault, with the Rafale, and the Eurofighter consortium, which had been promoting the Typhoon.

"Saab is both proud and delighted that Gripen has been chosen as the Swiss air force's future multirole fighter aircraft," the Swedish manufacturer said. "Saab stands prepared to start negotiations and await the next steps of the process."

Gripen - Armasuisse 

© Armasuisse

Switzerland had planned to select an F-5 replacement last year, having already conducted extensive flight evaluations with all three candidate aircraft. Its requirement had been set at about 22 aircraft, but was shelved in August 2010 when it became clear it could not raise the funds required to complete a purchase. The Swiss Federal Council will receive a final outline for a 22-aircraft deal in February 2012, the government has announced.

Saab chief executive Håkan Buskhe claimed in a statement that the Swiss decision underlines Gripen's position as "a world-class fighter system that provides the best value for money". The aircraft is already in operational use with the air forces of the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Sweden and Thailand.

In a bid supported by the Swedish government, Saab's proposal will lead to the establishment of "a long-term strategic industrial co-operation aimed at creating sustainable high-tech jobs, transferring technology and generating export business," the company said.

It previously pledged to at least meet a 100% offset requirement linked to a Gripen NG purchase, while Stockholm also expressed possible interest in the Swiss-built Pilatus PC-21 as a potential replacement for its Saab 105 jet trainers.

If confirmed, a win in Switzerland will provide a much-needed boost to Saab's status as a fighter manufacturer, after its Gripen was eliminated in another high-profile contests in India.

The Swiss air force has an active inventory of 41 F-5E fighters and 12 F-5F trainers, as listed in Flightglobal's MiliCAS database. The service also has 33 Boeing F/A-18C/Ds in its combat aircraft fleet.

Source: Flight International