Hungary Extends Gripen Lease but Swiss Choice Challenged

 - February 3, 2012, 10:10 AM
Hungary extended its lease of 14 Gripen C/D fighters to 2026. But Switzerland’s choice of the Swedish fighter has not yet been confirmed, and Dassault has offered to adjust its competing offer for the Rafale. (Photo: Saab)

Hungary extended until 2026 the lease contract with the Swedish government for the 14 Saab Gripen C/D fighters that it received in 2006 and 2007. The agreement was due to expire in 2016. According to press reports in Budapest, Hungary currently pays $130 million per year to operate the aircraft, which were surplus to Swedish air force requirements. Saab said it is pleased by Hungary’s “long-term strategic decision.”

Meanwhile, Dassault has challenged the Gripen’s recent success in the Swiss fighter evaluation. Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche was first to report that the French company had sent a letter to the Swiss parliament that offers to reduce the cost of the Rafale package to about $3 billion, including 18 aircraft. In fact, AIN understands, the letter is not a firm offer, but it does explain that some reductions in the capabilities and the weapons package would reduce the cost. The Gripen package is worth $3.4 billion, including 22 aircraft to the NG configuration. The Swiss government is due to submit its choice to the parliament for approval next month. The deal may yet go to a referendum.

In Sweden this year, the government is expected to consider further funding for the NG and its evolution into the Gripen E/F version, which might replace the air force’s current C/D fleet from 2020. Saab has proposed various enhanced configurations for the E/F, including features that have already been flight-tested in the Gripen NG and Demo versions, such as AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, new structure, and GE F414 engine.