Gripen Delivers Norwegian Bid – With a Twist
After Dassault’s Rafale was disqualified, and EADS’ Eurofighter pulled out, the battle to supply Norway’s 48 F-16 replacements has come down to a straight shootout between the F-35A Lightning II, and Sweden’s upgraded JAS-39N. See “F-35 Lightning II Faces Continued Dogfights in Norway” for more.
Gripen International has now delivered its bid to the Norwegian government, on the same day that it submitted its bid for India’s much larger MMRCA fighter competition. Dagbladet reported, and Gripen’s release confirmed, that Norway added a new wrinkle to its competition requirements:
“An integral part of the Swedish offer to Norway, is a commitment on the part of the Swedish Government to operate the same advanced version of the Gripen fighter aircraft as offered to Norway, in the event that Norway selects Gripen as its future combat aircraft. This offer creates a win-win situation for both countries, as they would not only share the development costs for the new fighter but would also share future enhancements over the future operational life of Gripen fighter aircraft for the next 30-40 years.”
Saab CEO Ake Svensson also announced significant industrial offset commitments:
“We are convinced that our offer provides a historical opportunity for strong and long lasting relations between Norway and Sweden in defence and security related areas as well as a broad range of industrial sectors. Up to date we have identified more than 200 partners in all of the Norwegian fylker. Today we can guarantee an industrial cooperation in excess of 100 percent of order value. Furthermore we can see a potential business value of at least an additional 100 percent within defence and non-defence sectors…”
To back that up, a number of cooperation agreements with Norwegian companies were announced in Oslo on April 28/08. The biggest partnership involves Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS. It covers composites and missiles in particular, including the new NSM anti-ship missile. That missile offer will help match the F-35 team’s offer. The overall agreement is reportedly valued at 12 billion NOK/ $2+ billion, spread over 10-15 years. Other partnerships include:
- Thales Norway (Communications equipment)
- Nammo (Gripen 27mm cannon ammunition)
- Simrad Optronics ASA (UAVs)
- Natech (cabling, panels, and racks)
- TotAlgroup (design and structural parts
Note that many of these agreements are likely to be conditional, based on Norway’s final choice of fighter.
The Norwegian government is expected to announce its decision at the end of 2008, and parliament is to vote on the issue in 2009.
While Sweden has confirmed their commitment to field Gripen NG, the catch is that Sweden’s defence budget probably can’t pay for that promise without additional cutbacks to its fighter fleet. Sweden already plans to drop its Gripen fleet to 100 aircraft; and Sweden’s defence minister Mikael Odenberg resigned in 2007 on the grounds that requests for additional budget reductions, coupled with insistence on expensive international deployments, were unworkable and endangered the force.
These circumstances make the commitment to upgrade Sweden’s fighters hard to read. On the one hand, the seriousness of Sweden’s commitment despite its acute budgetary problems, and the high-level government to government negotiations this commitment implies, could suggest that the JAS-39 is moving into the lead for the Norwegian contract. On the other hand, Norway’s concerns are going to be shared by other potential customers, and the Gripen’s already-difficult export prospects will be damaged unless there is a clear anchor customer for the JAS-39NG. Which is why Sweden’s agreement with Norway could also be seen as the public declaration of an industrial promotion decision that was going to happen anyway.
Additional Readings & Sources
- Thanks to Swedish reader and translator Per Bjorklund for his help. He can be reached at his Hotmail account, s_m_d_a@…
- DID – F-35 Lightning II Faces Continued Dogfights in Norway
- DID FOCUS – The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden’s 4+ Generation Wild Card
- Gripen International (April 28/08) – Gripen proposal to Norway delivered
- Saab Group (April 28/08) – Saab in extensive Norwegian cooperation | Gripen proposal to Norway delivered | Sweden offers Saab’s Gripen to Norway
- SvD (April 28/08) – Politisk strid om Gripen-projektet [Swedish]. Covers Sweden’s agreement to Norway’s extra condition.
- AFP, via Defense News (April 28/08) – Lockheed, Saab compete for Norway fighter order
- The Local (April 23/08) – Sweden’s military plans further cuts
- The Local (Sweden, Sept 5/07) – Sweden’s defence Minister resigns over cuts
- DID (May 4/06) – 2007 Budget Proposal Cuts Swedish Gripen Force, Looks to Buy Strategic Lift