Programme On Time But Swiss Requirement Inflexible
In a statement to the international media on the eve of the Paris Air Show, Saab has confirmed that it has informed Swiss defence procurement agency armasuisse that it will not participate with the GRIPEN E in the upcoming flight tests that are part of the evaluation process to determine the Swiss Air Force’s next combat platform.
The statement cites as reason for the decision the fact that the GRIPEN E development plan “does not match the Swiss plan to perform flight tests with aircraft that are operationally ready in 2019. Therefore, Saab has decided not to attend the Swiss flight tests in Payerne, 24-28 June.”
The GRIPEN E, however, will enter operational service years before Switzerland has scheduled deliveries and will meet all its defined capabilities. The aircraft is currently being developed, tested and produced for both Sweden and Brazil and Saab emphasized that “The programme is running at a fast and successful speed, with customer deliveries starting later this year.”
An armasuisse spokesman, Kaj-Gunnar Sievert, confirmed that the GRIPEN E will be excluded from the ongoing evaluation process, since it will not attend the flight tests. This leaves the F-35A, Eurofighter TYPHOON, the F/A-18 SUPER HORNET and RAFALE as the remaining four contenders. On 16 May, the Swiss government allocated CHF 6 billion to its Air2030 procurement programme.
Saab submitted a proposal for the GRIPEN E on 25 January and believes that, since submission, armasuisse’s for the flight tests have evolved to expect participation only of operationally ready aircraft. As GRIPEN E has yet to become operational, Saab presented alternative solutions, but an offer to complement the GRIPEN test aircraft with an operational GRIPEN C for the June tests was not accepted by armasuisse.
“We believe that GRIPEN E is the best choice for Switzerland and the offer, as presented in January 2019, still stands. Saab is committed to deliver at least 40 GRIPEN E fighter aircraft on time, meeting requirements and within planned budget, including a comprehensive support concept with local contribution, guaranteeing the most affordable operating costs and the highest level of autonomy,” Saab stated.
Switzerland has a requirement to replace its fighter fleet of F/A-18 HORNETs and F-5 E/F TIGERs. In January, Saab submitted a proposal covering options for 30 or 40 new-build GRIPEN E. According to Saab, the proposal satisfied all required capabilities for Switzerland and is based on the Swedish Air Force configuration, as requested. In the previous Swiss fighter aircraft procurement process, Saab offered Switzerland the GRIPEN E in a joint procurement with Sweden and at the time aligned the timeframe with the then Swiss requirement for an Initial Operational Capability in 2021.