Swedish Saab built one of the world’s best non-stealth fighters, but its CEO says it’s not good enough to surpass US jets


Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen

Saab JAS 39 Gripen during NATO exercises in northern Sweden, June 2009.Patrick Tragarde/AFP via Getty Images

  • Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen is considered a high performance 4.5th generation fighter.

  • Despite its high reputation, Gripen often loses sales to U.S. jets like the fifth-generation F-35.

  • Saab’s CEO says it’s not a “perfectly level playing field” when it comes to competing against US-made jets.

Why can’t Sweden’s Saab export its advanced Gripen fighter? It’s America’s fault, says Saab’s CEO. US influence in the international defense market makes other countries much more likely to buy aircraft such as her F-35.

“It’s very frustrating to say the least. [Gripen] This product is developed and manufactured by our company. ” Saab CEO Mikael Johansson told reporters In August. “I think we would have fared much better if it had been a completely level playing field in terms of not talking about security, politics or other areas.”

“In many countries, the US influence is tremendous. It’s not that easy to counter them,” Johansson said.

The Gripen is something of a runner-up in the world of fighter jets, and is often a contender when countries from Canada to India buy fighter jets. Its nemesis is the F-35.

Norway Sweden F-35 JAS 39 Gripen B-52

Swedish JAS 39 Gripens train with Norwegian F-35s and US B-52s in northern Norway in August.norwegian army

Particularly frustrating for the Swedes is neighboring Finland, which chose to join NATO alongside Stockholm after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. decided to buy the F-35 Replaces aging US-made F/A-18EF Super Hornet jet.

In the 2014 referendum, Swiss voters said The Swiss Air Force should not get Gripens. The government pursued the F-35 instead, signature Purchased 36 jets for $5.5 billion in September. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is ending its Gripen lease in favor of buying the F-35.

It seems a little unfair. The Gripen says he’s not a cutting-edge 5th generation stealth aircraft like the F-35, but High performance 4.5th generation fighterIt can reach Mach 2 and supercruise, allowing it to fly at supersonic speeds without resorting to fuel-hungry afterburners.

It is agile and carries Meteor supervisible range air-to-air missiles with a range of up to 80 miles.It is also designed to operate from improvised runways highways, etc.Useful if a fixed airbase is knocked out.

Czech JAS-39 Gripen

A JAS-39 Gripen in the Czech Republic during an exercise in June 2018.US Air National Guard/Tech.Sergeant Mindy Bloom

However, several countries use Gripen, such as Brazil, South Africa and Thailand, but have a much smaller customer base than US aircraft such as the F-35 and F-16.

One of the problems may be Sweden itself, but Sweden is a strange country when it comes to defense.maintained Neutrality in the World Wars and the Cold Warbut it also has a huge weapons industry that makes popular weapons like AT-4 anti-tank rocket used by the US military.

According to Elisabeth Blau, a foreign policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, Swedish politicians are actively encouraging other countries to buy Swedish weapons like the United States, France and other leaders. It doesn’t mean there is.

“Foreign governments want to be very confident in the relationships they are entering into because defense equipment can last for decades and need to be continually updated,” Braw wrote. foreign policy In August. “Some companies are participating in the tender with significant government support, while Swedish companies are participating in the tender with only a small amount of government involvement. We have made it clear to foreign governments that we are not interested.”

Another problem is that the Swedish government tends to be liberal. recent elections.

JAS-39C Gripen Swedish Air Force pilot

A Swedish JAS-39C Gripen pilot at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, January 2013.US Air Force/Lawrence Crespo

“Swedish politicians were interested in discussing alternative energy, gender equality, economic cooperation and other soft issues,” Jan Kalberg, a non-executive senior fellow at the European Center for Policy Analysis, told Insider. told to “Pursuing arms sales did not fit their agenda. The Ukrainian War changed these circumstances, but when the arms sales cycle is 10 years or more, it is too late in the game.”

After all, buying and selling weapons, like war, is not fair. Despite Gripen’s achievements, Sweden is a country of just 10 million people, has a tradition of providing a UN peacekeeping force, and despite its recent decision to join NATO, has a tough foreign policy. It has little reputation.

For many countries, American weapons come with special perks. Washington’s goodwill could mean America’s help in a crisis.

“American influence comes not from the United States, but from the Europeans themselves,” Culberg said. “As Russia becomes more aggressive, European countries want stronger ties and interoperable equipment with the United States. Buying the F-35 will do that.”

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine, and other publications. He holds a master’s degree in political science.follow him twitter When LinkedIn.

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