Saab and Pilatus will jointly promote the PC-21 if Sweden replaces its current trainer aircraft. (Pilatus)
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LONDON — Saab and Pilatus Aircraft will cooperate in bidding the Swiss company’s PC-21 if the Swedish Air Force opt to replace its SK 60 trainer.
Cooperation on the trainer is part of a wider possible tie-up the two companies agreed to when they inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the Swiss capital Bern March 28.
Plans to create an aerospace software development center and a separate aerostructures business in Switzerland are included in an MoU.
In a statement, Pilatus said the MoU cemented a “far reaching partnership which on the one hand addresses the offset obligations of Saab related to the possible purchases of the Gripen [fighter] for the Swiss Air Force while at the same time forging a long-term relationship.”
Switzerland is holding a referendum in May on whether the country should purchase 22 Gripens to replace a fleet of aging F-5’s.
Pilatus said the software development center would focus on developing innovative and safety-related software for aircraft and associated ground systems.
A site for the new aerostructures factory has not yet been selected but Pilatus said it would make parts the Gripen, PC-21 and other aircraft types built by the two companies.
Together, the measures are expected to generate orders worth around 500 million Swiss francs (US $564.5 million) over the next five to eight years, said the Stans-based Swiss aircraft builder.
Hakan Buskhe, the Saab CEO, said the decision to partner resulted from talks the Swedish company has been having with Swiss industry relating to the Bern government’s selection of the Gripen fighter to replace aging F-5 aircraft.
“We are very pleased to be working closer with Pilatus and look forward to exploring other business opportunities in Switzerland. This is a result of a long dialogue that began with the selection of the Gripen E in Switzerland,” said the Saab boss.
Earlier this month, Saab agreed to a deal with Swiss aerospace and defense company Ruag to start making parts for the Gripen as part of the offset requirements.
A centerpiece of the Pilatus deal is an agreement to offer a PC-21 training solution for a possible Swedish training requirement.
The Swedish Air Force has been flying the Saab-built SK60 since the 1960s and have for some time been reviewing whether it needs to replace the twin-jet machines.
Pilatus talked about a possible order for “some PC-21s” for Sweden.
Saab currently has a full turnkey deal with the Swedish Air Force to operate, maintain and support the fleet of 1960s vintage SK60 trainers.
Signed in December 2008, the 900 million Swedish krona (US $139.1 million) support deal runs to 2017 although there are options to extend beyond that date.
The Swedish aerospace company upgraded a number of SK60s following the signing of a contract in September 2009.
Some 67 aircraft were upgraded but only 35 machines are required for current Swedish training requirements.
Last December Saab moved to extend its trainer aircraft interest in a team deal with Boeing to design a new trainer to compete for a US Air Force requirement to replace T-38 jet trainers. ■