The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden’s 4+ Generation Wild Card
June 30/15: European defense giants Saab and BAE Systems may become embroiled in fresh corruption allegations, with the Swedish press reportedly unearthing fresh UK Serious Fraud Office documents relating to the sale of 26 Gripen fighters to South Africa in 1999, as well as a separate deal for Hawk trainers. The lucrative sale saw allegations up to and including the bribery of former South African President Jacob Zuma, just one of a set of BAE-related bribery allegations. The new documents reportedly show that the company paid out approximately $1.58 billion in bribes to secure the Gripen and Hawk deals, with Saab kept in the loop regarding the illicit payments.
June 29/15: Brazil is reportedly looking to restructure its financing with Gripen-manufacturer Saab, a result of austerity-driven budget constraints and cuts to the amount of borrowed cash the country is taking from Sweden’s Export Credit Corporation to fund the fighter. Brazilian prosecutors announced their intention in April to investigate the $5.4 billion deal signed with Saab last year, after the Gripen beat out competitors Boeing and Dassault.
As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.
JAS-39: The Gripen Program
Saab’s JAS-39A-D Gripens
Partnerships & Production
JAS-39 Gripen: The Way Forward
The Next Gripens: Industrial
JAS-39 Gripen: Major Events
2006 and earlier
JAS-39 Gripen: Contracts & Awards
2012 – 2013
2010 – 2011
2008 – 2009
2007 and Earlier
Additional Readings & Sources
JAS-39 Gripen: The Platform
Export Competitions: Highlights
News & Views
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