Based on the increased interest for Gripen in Europe, Asia, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, Saab is taking a long-term view of potential sales of the Gripen-E, according to the group's CEO. (Peter Liander/Saab)
HELSINKI — Saab is downplaying speculation that it is engaged in exploratory talks with Boeing regarding a possible future offering of the Gripen to the US Air Force’s T-X trainer replacement program.
Group CEO Håkan Buskhe said that the company is focused on finding global customers for its next-generation Gripen-E fighter. Saab, said Buskhe, wants to sell 400 to 450 Gripen-E aircraft over the next 15-20 years.
“This spring we stated that we would be able to sell about 300 aircraft, but in my opinion, if you ask me today, I could visualize us selling another 100 to 150 aircraft on top of that,” Buskhe said.
Based on the increased interest for Gripen in Europe, Asia, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, Saab is taking a long-term view of potential sales of the Gripen-E, Buskhe said. The Swedish government has already placed orders for 60 Gripen-E aircraft.
“The rising interest for Gripen reflects the long-term analysis of the market for Gripen-E. The business opportunities seem to be quite promising,” Buskhe said.
Saab’s projections are based on estimates that around 6,000 fighter jets will need to be replaced globally in the coming 15-20 years. Due to Swedish export restrictions on sales to so-called “non-democratic” countries, Saab believes it’s potential reach amounts to around 3,000 aircraft, and that the company is capable of capturing a 10 percent share of this market.
Saab’s ability to hit its revised target numbers came one step closer on Sept 18. when Switzerland’s Council of States, voted by majority (27-17) to abolish the spending ceiling in relation to the purchase of the Gripen-E.
The vote means that Saab has secured provisional acceptance for the $3.6 billion sale of 22 Gripen-E aircraft from the Swiss Parliament’s two chambers.
Both chambers in Switzerland’s Federal Assembly are expected to discuss political aspects of the Gripen procurement deal when they meet in joint session on Sept. 27.
“If the votes are re-confirmed at the end of the current session of Parliament we must then wait to see if a public referendum on the procurement of Gripen is called for. If so, then a referendum will need to be held before any order for the fighter is received,” said Lennart Sindahl, the head of Saab’s Aeronautics division.
Sindahl downplayed market reports that Saab is in dialogue with Boeing on the possible development of a Gripen trainer for the US Air Force’s T-X program. “There are completely different parameters governing the design of training aircraft and fighter jets. Neither the C/D or Gripen-E is relevant for any fighter training program,” Sindahl said.
Saab’s focus, Sindahl said, will be to concentrate on the continued development of the Gripen-E. The program, he added, would not include the production of a trainer version. Although it would be possible to convert a fighter aircraft into a trainer aircraft, such a project would be “very expensive” and potentially generate a low quality aircraft, the Saab Aeronautics chief said.
Britain’s Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) has used the Gripen for advanced fast jet training for test pilots since 1999. The ETPS has included Gripen in its graduate test pilot training courses, working together with Saab and the Swedish Air Force. The ETPS is run as a partnership between Britain’s Defence Ministry andthe defense technology solutions group QinetiQ.