Sweden and Switzerland have reached agreement on sharing the cost to develop and introduce the next-generation version of the Saab Gripen fighter. The Swedish defense ministry said there are good opportunities for synergies, including training, maintenance and future upgrades. The Swiss Air Force selected the Gripen last November, in preference to the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon.
Sweden now says it will buy “40 to 60” next-generation Gripen E/Fs, to replace the current fleet of approximately 100 C/D versions, but the new aircraft would not be operational until 2023, and would serve for 20 years. Switzerland has targeted an initial operational capability of 2018. The Gripens are supposed to replace aging F-5 fighters.
The Swedish defense ministry dismisses speculation that it can afford the new Gripens only if it makes cuts elsewhere in the armed forces. It justifies the acquisition plan in terms of Swedish jobs, exports and research and development. The Swedish government is proposing to increase the defense budget by $300 million over the next 10 years, to help pay for the new jets. Switzerland said last year that it would pay $3.4 billion for its Gripen package of 22 aircraft. Sweden will continue to be one of the few countries in the world with the capacity and know-how for the production of advanced fighter aircraft, the defense ministry noted.
Saab says that a tender for the new aircraft has been submitted to the Swedish government, and that it looks forward to negotiating the order. The Gripen is designed to cope with “existing and future threats and to keep operational costs low compared with its competitors,” the company said. Elements of the new-generation Gripen, including the Selex-Galileo Raven AESA radar, are already flying on a prototype converted from a Gripen D.