(Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Swedish aerospace make)
The Swedish government is working on a joint strategy with Saab to extend the Gripen-E combat fighter offer to Brazil to include a radically up-scaled industrial dimension that would see Brazil become the primary production base for future Gripen-E sales to South America and Africa through a joint venture development and profit sharing partnership with Embraer.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt plans to convene an inter-departmental meeting between ministers pivotal to the Gripen-E sale to Brazil in January. The Ministry of Trade (MoT) is already working on a proposal that would link large-sized industrial investments by some of Sweden’s biggest technology systems manufacturing companies to the sale contract. The proposal is expected to include non-defense sector companies.
"The industrial segment of the Gripen Offer to Brazil can be strengthened — and we will look at all ways to do this," said trade minister Ewa Björling. The MoT is working on the proposal in collaboration with Saab and a special advisory team appointed by defense minister Karin Enström.
The level of political enthusiasm on Sweden’s part has been ignited by inter-government talks between Swedish and Brazilian trade departments following the Dec. 19 announcement of the Gripen-E’s selection. In these discussions, Brazil has signaled that it would be open to considering the purchase of an additional 100 Gripen-Es if the $4.5 billion contract stays on delivery schedule and within Brazil’s defined budget.
The Swedish government has already confirmed that part of the 36 Gripen-E combat aircraft earmarked in Saab’s preliminary sale contract will be manufactured at a new plant in Sao Bernardo, an industrial city located close to Sao Paulo. This facility would produce the Gripen-E or two seat Gripen-F aircraft in support of any future sales to other South American and African countries.
"Brazil has excellent relations with its neighbors in South America and with other developing countries. This is something we want to exploit. We see this as just the beginning of what promises to be a very fruitful industrial cooperation between Sweden and Brazil," said Lennart Sindahl, president of Saab Aeronautics.
The two governments are also discussing an interim solution, ahead of the delivery of the first Gripen-Es in 2018, under which Brazil could lease Gripen C/D one or two seat combat aircraft from the Swedish Air Force’s existing or surplus fleet and stock.
"There is an interest for such an interim solution by Brazil, and we will put together a lease proposal to meet this need after we examine the range of feasibility issues," said Sofia Karlberg, a spokesperson for Sweden’s National Defense and Security Export Agency.
The Swedish Air Force’s current stock of older version Gripens includes around 87 Gripen-C aircraft and 50 Gripen-A fighters dating to the mid-1990s. The lease proposal is likely to include a possible conversion of Gripen-As to Gripen-C type status which would be funded by the Swedish state.