Gripen could replace Austria’s Eurofighter jets

Amid a dispute with Airbus (ed.), Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said on Friday that the country’s 15 Eurofighter jets would be replaced early.

New fighter jets will be delivered between 2020 and 2023, and the current version of Saab’s Gripen is favoured to replace the Eurofighter.

Austria would like to strike a deal with Sweden, which via the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, FMV, is offering 15 single-seater Gripen C, and three two-seater Gripen D jets, the version used by the Swedish Air Force.

Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reports that Lockheed Martin’s F16 is also a potential candidate, and it is feasible that other alternatives could be in the running.

A deal will need to be struck by 2018 in order for deliveries to be made in 2020, and the Austrian government therefore intends to lease the aircraft to save time.

There is said to be broad political support in Austria to replace the Eurofighter jets, which could be significant as the country goes to the polls on 15 October.

Saab could have an advantage in that the Gripen is already used in two of Austria’s neighbouring countries, and is also being eyed by Slovakia.

JAS deal: Lula accused of corruption

The federal prosecution authority in Brazil has accused ex-president Liz Ignácio “Lula” da Silva of a number of crimes including influence trafficking, money laundering and organised crime between 2013 and 2015. The authority claims the improprieties led the Brazilian government to choose to purchase 36 JAS Gripen planes from Saab.

Accusations have also been made against Lula’s son, Luiz Cláudio Lula da Silva, and the Brazilian lobbyist Mauro Marcondes and engineer Cristina Mautoni who together own the lobbying firm M&M. Former president Lula is said to have influenced the government to the advantage of companies including Saab.

Brazilian newspaper O Globo reports that the prosecutors wrote that the lobbyists received over 2.5 million reais (around 7.5 million kronor), which was then transferred to Lula da Silva. They claim that Saab gave 1.84 million euros to M&M and write there is a great deal of evidence to support the accusation. “There is an intensive exchange of emails between employees of M&M and Lula Institute which aim to facilitate a meeting between Lula and the future Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven.”

Saab denies participating in improprieties.

Historic order in sight

The government is making a serious attempt to sell the fighter jet Gripen to India, a deal that would be the largest ever in Swedish history with a value far over SKr 100 billion. The Indian government recently sent an invitation to defence group Saab to participate in the tender for fighter jets.

Next week a delegation from Sweden, including enterprise minister Mikael Damberg, travels to India, on the initiative of Marcus Wallenberg, who is leading a new Swedish-Indian business cooperation. ABB’s CEO Johan Söderström, Alfa Laval’s CEO Tom Erixon, financier Carl Bennet and Saab’s CEO Håkan Buskhe will also be part of the delegation.

Mikael Damberg comments on a possible sale of Gripen: “It would not only be the largest deal ever, it would also mean a close partnership between Sweden and India for decades to come, which of course would mean a great deal for Swedish industry and our potential to grow in the whole of Asia.”

Embargo lift opens for Gripen

The USA’s decision to remove the arms embargo on Vietnam could open the door for major Swedish arms deals with the country. This kind of deal has not previously been possible, as the embargo has included systems that have American components, such as the Gripen.

Christer Ahlström, director general for the Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP) says that it is theoretically possible but adds that any such deal must have Swedish approval. “We have had a restrictive view of Vietnam with our guidelines. We should also weigh up the situation for human rights,” he says.

Saab press spokesperson Sebastian Carlsson says that Saab is monitoring developments.

Saab adjusts sales prognosis for Gripen

Saab boss Håkan Buskhe is revaluing the forecast for sales of the Gripen fighter jet over the next twenty years.

Last week Finland took a crucial step towards acquiring new fighter jets by sending out an inquiry to Sweden, USA, UK and France about what they have to offer. SvD reports that Finland’s plans for new aircraft is only one example of a number of countries looking to renew their air forces.

Saab had estimated selling around 450 Gripen fighter jets in the next twenty years. However Saab president Håkan Buskhe now says in addition to the coming 450 E/F versions to be supplied to Sweden and Brazil’s air forces starting 2019, there are current C/D versions that the company expects to sell. Buskhe considers Slovakia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bulgaria as possible buyers.

Growing interest in fighter jet

“Interest in the Gripen is greater than ever. We have a handful of countries that are interested in the Gripen E and F (one-seat and two-seat versions). We are in a situation where we are the only ones in the Western world who are developing a new fighter aircraft,” said Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe when he presented the company’s Q4 report yesterday.

India is one of the countries to which Saab hopes to sell the Gripen, and the company has stressed that it is prepared to meet India’s demand that the aircraft be manufactured in the country. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (S) will visit India 13-14 February where he, along with Håkan Buskhe and a Swedish industry delegation, will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Commenting the development of a new trainer aircraft in a bid to win a US Air Force contract, Mr Buskhe told investors. “Our cooperation with Boeing is going extremely well and we have a concept that we are convinced will change the ‘training world’. We are very sure that we will be able to win contracts”.

Saab posted a profit after depreciation of SKr 1.34 billion for the fourth quarter. Sales amounted to SKr 10 billion, an increase of 36% on the corresponding period in 2014.

India may control Gripen’s future

Earlier this month Saab launched a campaign to sell the Gripen fighter jet to India. CEO Håkan Buskhe was in New Delhi, along with Ulf Nilsson, the head of Saab’s aeronautics division.

This is no small deal we are talking about, comments Svenska Dagbladet. While Sweden has ordered 60 new Gripen E fighters, Brazil 36 and the Czech Republic has just signed an agreement on an upgrade of its 14 fighters (ed), India is probably looking at buying 200. This would certainly boost Saab’s sales, but the company could also lose some control over the fighter jet’s future development to India, according to journalist Tomas Augustsson, who also points out that the process is likely to be long and complicated, and may come to nothing. “And until then, what happens in smaller, neighbouring countries, on their way to acquiring new fighter jets, is more important,” he writes.