Saab reacted with vigor to a statement by the Norwegian government that the Gripen fighter was inferior to the Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF in most aspects of performance–and was also more expensive. Norway had been evaluating the Gripen NG (New Generation) as an alternative to the JSF, and Saab had high hopes of launching the NG version with the help of its Scandinavian neighbor. Saab said that Norway had done its own simulations of the Gripen’s performance using incomplete or inaccurate data and made unwarranted assumptions about the Gripen’s lifecycle costs and attrition rate. “Only 20 percent of the Norwegian cost estimates are based on the facts presented in the Swedish offer,” Saab said and also claimed that the Norwegians had discounted its industrial cooperation offer worth more than $7 billion.
In announcing its decision, the Norwegian government said that it had conducted a transparent, just and credible competition that was reviewed by external auditors. The evaluators made a clear recommendation in favor of the JSF, according to the Norwegian government, which subsequently issued a point-by-point rebuttal of Saab’s complaints about the evaluation. The Gripen demo aircraft used for the Norwegian trials is essentially a prototype of the Gripen NG.
In 2006 and 2007, the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon were withdrawn from the Norwegian evaluation because their manufacturers doubted the government’s resolve to seriously consider alternatives to the JSF. Saab has also proposed the Gripen NG to Denmark and the Netherlands, but neither country is thought likely to abandon its commitment to the F-35 program.