Gripen International (the Swedish-British joint venture between SAAB and British Aerospace) launched a marketing campaign to promote its fourth-generation fighter aircraft in the Middle East, specifically during the Dubai 2003 air show to be held from December 7-11.
To date, the Royal Swedish Air Force has taken delivery of 137 of the 204 SAAB-BAE JAS-39A Gripen fighters ordered. The South African Air Force has also ordered 28 aircraft and Hungary wants 14. The Czech Republic decided in 2001 to acquire 24 Gripens, but that purchase was cancelled in 2002 after the Czech Parliament decided that it could not afford the large purchase. SAAB representatives claim the Czechs are still considering their plane and the Brazilians have also expressed an interest.
The first Hungarian fuselage was started at the beginning of October, while Hungarian pilots and ground crew from the squadron at Kecskemt went the Swedish F7 base at Stens to familiarize themselves with the aircraft. Five aircraft are expected by March 2006, two of these will be the dual-seat JAS-39B trainers. The remaining aircraft will be delivered by the end of 2007.
South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma formally opened the production line for his country's order of 28 aircraft on October 8 and the South Africans are due to receive their first fighter in 2006. The program also includes British Aerospace Systems Hawk fighter trainers and is worth about $1.5 billion in defense industrial participation and $7.2 billion in local industrial participation.
One problem the South African Air Force is facing is the shrinking pool of trained pilots and mechanics, which would be critical to keeping these type of aircraft capable of performing air superiority missions.
The South Africans are offsetting some of the cost by integrating their own parts into their Gripens. These include the rear fuselage section, the main landing gear fuselage unit and the ordnance pylons, as well as some reconnaissance sensors. The South African pylons are designed to meet NATO standards and if SAAB decides that Denel has met their own quality standards, the South African parts could also be used in Gripens ordered by Sweden and Hungary. - Adam Geibel
JAS-39 Gripen, online at: