Gripen International sales director Bob Kemp often reminds people that nobody would have believed, a few years ago, that the Gripen would have broken into many export markets, let alone that a developed Gripen could be emerging as a serious competitor to the JSF. With that in mind, I asked him at Farnborough what he saw as trends in the worldwide fighter market.
"The customer's focused on performance, It's got to work and you've got to guarantee that it will work. So many customers have been disappointed with products that don't do what it says it will do on the can.
"Schedule. So many governments have been grossly embarrassed by programs that run years late." (Consider the Australian Seasprites and Canada's CH-148 Cyclone.) Kemp points out that the last major Gripen program, the C/D update, came in on time and cost.
"Price." Kemp continues. "If it works and you can deliver it, the price - including operational cost - is extremely important." International politics are less important than they used to be, Kemp says, but domestic issues are more so. (It was the activism of coalition partners that forced the Netherlands government to re-evaluate its choice of the JSF.)
Close air support (CAS) missions are becoming more crucial as time goes on, particularly in countries which have supported operations in the Middle East. "The guys commanding those operational units were the ones who got promoted, and their influence and experience will be more important."
By the way - and quite contrary to the opinions expressed on Wednesday by Eurofighter CEO Aloysius Rauen - Gripen International managing director Johan Lehander repeated the company's view that the Netherlands is conducting a genuine competition. "We had 20 Dutch MPs here on Monday, from every party," Lehander said. "Apart from the Animal Party, that is." Clearly, mythical animals don't count.