August 25, 2012
Sweden said today it would buy 40-60 new JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets from aerospace firm Saab after inking a deal last year to share some of the development costs with Switzerland.
Sweden has not previously said how many of the next generation Gripen planes it would buy, although its development partner for the jet, Switzerland, said late last year it would buy 22 at a cost of 3.1 billion Swiss francs.
“The partnership with Switzerland means that together we can procure and operate a high-capability fighter plane programme at a lower cost than we had been forced to pay if Sweden had procured (the jets) alone,” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a newspaper article signed by the leaders of all four parties in the ruling Alliance.
But the head of Switzerland’s Free Democrats (FDP) indicated in a newspaper report that his party was unlikely to support the country’s planned purchase of 22 of the jets, which could scupper the Swiss side of the deal.
Switzerland’s parliament is expected to vote on the controversial purchase to replace aged Northrop F-5E/F Tiger fighters, in October. In order for it to pass, the pro-business FDP must back it.
Asked by the Neue Zuercher Zeitung whether the FDP would pull the plug on the deal, party president Philipp Mueller said:
“At least, we’re about to do so. It has been known for some time that there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Gripen order.”
Mueller cited questions about the yet to be developed technologies used in the jets and the chance of cost overruns as reasons to object to the purchase.
The government opted last November to buy 22 JAS-39 Gripens. But the decision is unpopular with some because it will require spending cuts in other areas, such as education. The issue may even be put to a referendum in Switzerland.