Swedish Gripen and Israeli F-16 Top Candidates for New Fighter Aircraft

Total Croatia News

The final decision will be made soon.

The Swedish manufacturer SAAB, with the support of the Swedish government, has decided to intensify the lobbying and try to convince the Croatian government to select its Gripen JAS 39 C/D as the new fighter jet for the Croatian Air Force (HRZ). In a surprising move, at the last moment it invited journalists from Croatia to visit Sweden and meet with the company owners and Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, reports Večernji List on November 20, 2017.

A month and a half ago, Croatia’s Ministry of Defence received four bids for the acquisition of new fighter aircraft. It is expected that the evaluation of the proposals should be completed by 30 November, when the decision should be announced. Although the details are still unclear, according to unofficial information, two bids – the most expensive one from the USA, which offered new modern F-16s, and the Greek offer of used older F-16s – are far behind.  The US bid is allegedly too expensive, while the Greek planes would immediately have to undergo modernization.

That means the final choice will be made between the two remaining offers – the Israeli one, with used F-16s Barak, and the Sweden offer of the brand new Gripens Jas 39 C/D. Croatian journalists who visited Ronneby in southern Sweden were convinced by Swedish pilots that the C/D configuration is exceptionally reliable and powerful armed. They claim that the plane is now in its best condition ever, and the SAAB leadership assured the journalists that they would continue to develop the C/D model in the future as well. They plan to make major upgrade every three years.

Although the Swedes have apparently heard a rumour that the Israeli offer is much cheaper, they have not given up. On the contrary, they even intensified their lobbying efforts. They also probably heard that the Defence Ministry was shocked when the bids were opened since they expected a much lower price. The problem is that Croatia expected that this offer would be close to the ones submitted over the past ten years. However, since the Defence Ministry has made a major change to the tender as it is now looking for “multipurpose” and not just air policing aircraft, it was clear that this would significantly increase the price.

In Sweden, Croatian journalists learned informally that the Swedes are aware that their offer is very costly and are ready for further negotiations. Although the tender is still in progress, it is clear that the Swedes expect the Croatian government to ask them and other bidders for their best and final offer. That price would certainly be lower.

Still, experts believe that Israel has a better chance of winning the tender than Sweden. Not only because of the price (lower by at least 300 million euros) or the promised industrial cooperation and technology transfer but because it is believed that Croatia and Israel could become strategic defence partners. On the other hand, the Swedes claim that Gripens are in fact the most integrated aircraft in NATO.

Translated from Večernji List.


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