Sunday, July 3, 2011
Tomorrow Brazil and India, Today Sweden
In India Saab is supposed to be out of the competition, or are they? No one really knows for sure. According to official press releases India will go forward with Eurofighter and Rafale, but Lockheed Martin has objected and most probably the decision will wait for a while.
In Brazil the FX-2 competition seems to be at a stand-still. And out of the ashes comes FX-3! Brazil want a new competition, but this time they will also make room for the 5:th generation of aircraft. F-35 and PAK-FA T-50 will probably be invited.
For this increase to 36 fighters, there would be "Chavez Factor" with their purchases of armaments on a large scale and attraction of the Cold War to the American South, "Chavez Factor" showed to Brazilian society that it does not have the height of Defense country for decades.
This purchase of the FX-2 could be far higher, because the original FX aimed assembly in Brazil, under license, in a next phase, 84 aircraft model has perfected the first choice, coming to total 120 aircraft interception. Only Chavez plans to reach 150 Su-30 and Su-35BM for its Venezuela. An acquisition is not less than this would cause local assembly or could count on full transfer of technology. Even 120 units produced under license does not guarantee transfer of technology obsolescence.
In Sweden the Minister of Defence will wait for another year before deciding on the future for the Gripan fleet in the Swedish Air Force. Will it be an updated Gripen C/D+ with new avionics or will it be a Gripen E/F with a new fuselage with room for more fuel, weapons, a bigger AESA radar and the F414 engine? Unfortunately for Saab Volvo is together with some high ranking FMV officials doing their best to stop the Gripen E/F in favor for the Swedish license made RM12+ upgrade. No one has yet asked General electric about how they will handle Volvo when it comes to competing a license made RM12 against General Electric F414. RM12+ will also be the end of the line for the F414 design. If Sweden in the future want more thrust it will need to be another engine instead of just upgrades.
But, during this waiting period there is still a lot of work ongoing at Saab.
FMV has recently announced a 1034 MSEK order on upgrades to the Gripen C/D fleet. This will ensure the work at Saab AB in Linköping, Kista, Mölndahl and Järfälla.
Do not forget that there are a number of existing customers who are operating the Gripen. 16 aircraft in South Africa, 14 in the Czech Republic, 14 in Hungary, 12 (so far) in Thailand and more than 100 in Sweden. There are also a number of countries that can not afford aircraft like the F-35 and ar very interested in a cheaper aircraft like the Gripen C/D. This is were the money for Saab is today.
This is something that is easily forgotten in the debate about Gripen E/F or not. The Swedish government has already decided to operate the Gripen until 2040. During these years there will be a need for continuous development of the aircraft. Sooner or later this will result in a major upgrade of the aircraft. Either by a number of smaller upgrades or by a major MLU - Mid Life Update.
There is of course the option of doing nothing at all. But this leaves two possible futures. Either there will be no Swedish Air Force at all or the Swedish Air Force need to replace their existing Gripen C/D with F-35 or a similar alternative starting somewhere around 2025. Will this alternative be cheaper? Ask the Norwegians!