It’s a small, agile fighter that can take off and land on highways, while carrying the latest technologies and weapons. It does very well against NATO’s best aircraft in exercises, comes with a reasonable price tag, and is built for low lifetime operating costs. Unfortunately, in a world where people often buy your weapons because they want you to be their friend, the cachet of having Sweden in your corner isn’t quite what it used to be when their sailors wore those cool horned helmets. As a result, the JAS-39 Gripen is an excellent, reasonably-priced fighter yet it has been struggling for traction in the global marketplace.
A recent sale to Thailand has expanded Saab’s horizons somewhat, as the Gripen beat out the SU-30s favored by the previous Thai government. Lockheed Martin’s F-16 had been considered the leading contender to replace the RTAF’s 15-25 aging F-5B/Es, given Thailand’s extensive history with that aircraft. Other candidates included Russia’s MiG-29, and France’s Rafale. Saab had a very competitive offering on cost and performance, but in order to win, they had to throw in a very significant “something extra”: their Saab 340-AEW AWACS aircraft.