For the Saab Gripen, last year's win in Switzerland and the subsequent commitment by Sweden to buy 60-80 of the new model E/F-standard aircraft has provided a shot in the arm, but export successes globally have been few.
Brazil could provide an important test case, opening the door not just to a new market but potentially to an entire region. Brazil's decision has been delayed numerous times, but Eddy de la Motte, vice president for marketing of the Swedish fighter, notes that “we get the feeling it is the end game.”
Saab could deliver the first Gripen E/F (also called the NG) fighter four years after a contract award, but it is still unclear if that is the schedule Brasilia will insist on, or whether it will join the combined Swiss/Swedish Gripen E/F development schedule, which would see the first fighter handed over in 2018.
The first Gripen E/F prototype is due to fly late next year if the Swiss and Swedish governments can agree on the development path forward. The effort would likely require some funding from Saab, too.
Meanwhile, the Selex Galileo Raven ES-05 active, electronically scanned array radar is to fly on the Gripen NG demonstrator soon, at which time the cockpit displays and sensor will be put through their paces.
The Swedish government has an offer on the table for potential export buyers, to accelerate its purchase if another country wants the Gripen E/F early but does not want to be the lead buyer. That offer remains open, de La Motte says.
A win in Brazil could open the door to other fighter deals in South America, adds Frederik Gustafson, regional director for Gripen exports in the Americas. “There is a huge need for new fighters in the region and the economies are growing,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Aerospace Forum Sweden 2012. There are more than a handful of countries that are looking to buy in the next five years, he added.
But that is not the only region where Saab is working to meet its target of selling 300 fighters over the next decade. In Thailand, were it has already sold 12 Gripens (six are delivered with six to follow next year), it is hoping for additional deals. Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and, “in a couple of years” Vietnam may also offer opportunities, de La Motte says.
Efforts also continue to extend the fighter lease deal with the Czech Republic and secure orders in Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovakia. Gripen also still hopes to convince Denmark and the Netherlands to defect from the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter program.
This year, the Czech Republic is due to make a decision on whether it will extend the fighter lease beyond 2015. The Czech air force currently operates 12 single-seat and two dual-seat Gripens under a lease deal that expires in 2015. The goal is to complete negotiations this year on how to preserve fighter capability.