Helsinki — Sweden’s hopes of cementing the sale of 22 Gripen-NG E/F variant fighter aircraft to Switzerland will remain at a crossroad pending ratification of the deal by the Swiss National Council in June, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in Stockholm.
The National Council is scheduled to debate the project in mid-June. The JAS Gripen E/F sale contract is valued at $3.3 billion.
Reinfeldt, who leads Sweden’s Moderate-dominant coalition administration, reiterated that the Swiss deal is pivotal to a government plan to proceed with the $14.2 billion acquisition of 60 JAS Gripen E/F aircraft for the Swedish Air Force (SAF).
Under a Swedish government resolution reached in 2012, the SAF order would be canceled should the Swiss sale fall through and a replacement international partner cannot be found for Saab.
“We were always aware that the sale would first need to go through the democratic process in Switzerland, and this process is not yet finished. It is important for Sweden to have Switzerland as a strategic partner, but at this moment I do not want to comment further before the process has finished,” Reinfeldt said.
The political uncertainty in Sweden follows a March 5 vote in the Swiss Upper House, the Council of States, which approved the acquisition of the 22 JAS Gripen aircraft by a narrow 22-20 margin.
However, the vote fell well short of the absolute majority needed under Swiss parliamentary rules to authorize funding for the JAS Gripen acquisition. Under Swiss rules, absolute voting majorities are required for all acquisition projects with a capital value in excess of $21 million.
The Gripen sale has become the focal point for a raging political interparty debate in Switzerland that centers on whether the country needs to invest large sums on military hardware and national defense.
Sweden’s defense minister, Karin Enström, was more upbeat about the program’s future in the second half of 2013.
“The vote leaves the funding issue unresolved, but we can return to this later. Nevertheless, I regard the vote as a positive decision for the sale of the JAS Gripen to Switzerland,” Enström said.