Norway has decided to buy the more expensive U.S. F-35, rather than the
less expensive Gripen from neighbor Sweden. What changed Norwegian minds was a
series of computer simulations by the Norwegian Defense Institute, which
concluded that the Gripen could not provide much of a fight against the Russian
advanced Su-30 fighters, or the new Russian fifth generation fighter.
as an also-ran in the current crop of "modern jet fighters," the
Swedish Gripen has long proved to be more competition than the major players
(the F-16, F-18, F-35, Eurofighter, Rafale, MiG-29 and Su-27) expected. Put
simply, Gripen does a lot of little, but important, things right, and costs
about half as much (at about $30 million each) as its major competitors. In
effect, Gripen provides the ruggedness and low cost of Russian aircraft, with
the high quality and reliability of Western aircraft. For many nations, like
South Africa, the Czech Republic and Hungary, this is an appealing combination.
The Gripen is easy to use (both for pilots and ground crews), and capable of
doing all jet fighter jobs (air defense, ground support and reconnaissance) well
is small (14 ton max weight), but can carry up to 3.6 tons of weapons. With the
increasing use of smart bombs, this is adequate. The aircraft entered active
service in 1997, and has had an uphill battle getting export sales. Sweden does
not have the diplomatic clout of its major competitors, so they have to push
quality and service. Swedish warplanes, and products in general, have an
excellent reputation in both categories. Nevertheless, the Gripen is still
expected to lose out on a lot of sales simply because politics took precedence
shares a border with Russia, and Russian warplanes have been increasingly
active off Norway's northern coast. The decision to go for the F-35 was based
largely on the ability of that aircraft to put up some real opposition against
the best that Russia has, or will have in the next decade or so.
Force simulations and studies have shown the F-35 to be four times as effective
against any current fighter (the best of them known as "fourth
generation" aircraft.) The major advantages of the F-35 are engine power
(it's one engine generates more power than the two engines used in the
Eurofighter or F-18), stealth and the fact that it can fight "clean"
(without any pods or missiles hung from its wings, and interfering with maximum
The 27 ton
F-35 is armed with an internal 25mm cannon and four internal air-to-air
missiles (or two missiles and two smart bombs). Plus four external smart bombs
and two missiles. All sensors are carried internally, and max weapon load is
6.8 tons. The aircraft is very stealthy when just carrying internal weapons.
The first F-35s will be delivered in two years.