Whilst a debate rages in Switzerland over an anonymous letter containing detailed accusations of irregularities in the selection process of the Gripen, Sweden last week quietly approved a request from Hungary to extend the lease of 14 Gripen fighter jets for another 10 years, to 2026.
Hungarian defense minister Csaba Hende said earlier this month that there was no realistic alternative solution to the lease which costs Hungary 30 billion forints ($130 million) a year while training costs another 2 billion forints ($8.7 million) a year, according to the Budapest Business Journal.
The Hungarian Air Force is leasing 14 ex-Swedish Air Force aircraft, including two two-seaters. The lease agreement was signed in February 2003 and Hungary became the first NATO member state to operate the Gripen when it received the first five aircraft in March 2006. Final deliveries took place in December 2007.
Meanwhile a seven-member parliamentary commission has been set up in Switzerland to investigate accusations made in an anonymous letter -- signed by a mysterious group calling itself “group for a credible and upright army” – which contains grave accusations that the results of the evaluations of the aircraft in Switzerland's fighter aircraft competition were “manipulated” given that it was the aircraft that scored least well in the evaluation process that won the competition.
If you scroll through Ares blogs to November 30, 2011 and thereabouts you'll find a number of posts about the Swiss competition and the Gripen win.
The accusations are detailed: “The facts related, the precisions and details given are sufficiently specific that they obviously have not just been dreamt up,” says Yvan Perrin, one of the members of the commission, in an interview published by 24heures.ch that you can read in French here.
Those who have read the letter say the authors documented their charges extremely and are therefore either close to the army or, at least, have detailed knowledge of the procurement. Perrin says that it is in everybody's interest to fully investigate these accusations. “That way if everything was done according to the rules then all will be totally transparent if the issue has to go to public referendum and if there have been failures we have to take the consequent decisions, on the one hand vis-à-vis the institutions – the army, the Confederation – and on the other vis-à-vis the other competitors,” he says.
Perrin says that if “it should appear that obvious liberties were taken in the evaluations ... I cannot imagine dropping the Gripen, but rather starting the entire evaluation process again from scratch.”
The Gripen flying over Sion in Switzerland. Photo credit: Keystone.