F-35 at All Costs?


‘Norway would have taken JSF even if Sweden handed them 48 Gripen NGs as a Gift’

Åke Svensson, Saab CEO

“While Norway’s selection of the US built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is legitimate, the reasons and arguments on which the comparative analysis was based were flawed.” This, in summary is the claim Saab Group has made, following the Norwegian announcement favoring the F-35 over Saab’s Gripen NG, last month (November 20, 2008). Saab’s unprecedented response protested not the Norwegian decision but their claims as to the Swedish fighter’s ability to meet their requirements.

The Norwegian findings indicated that the Gripen NG does not fulfil Norway’s operational requirements and that the Swedish aircraft would prove essentially more expensive.

Åke Svensson Saab CEO referred to the Norwegian analysis process as flawed. “The reasons publicly brought forward by the Norwegian government cannot rest on a thorough evaluation of the alternatives” said Saab CEO. He indicated that the alleged life cycle cost does not rest on the experience of the Gripen system has acquired throughout its operational years, but has been calculated by applying their own assumptions and models; furthermore, the conditions underpinning the calculation were, in parts, radically altered without providing Saab an opportunity to submit relevant data.

“The claims that Gripen does not meet the Norwegian air force’s demand rest on simulations containing incomplete or non-existent capacity information… It sounded like the description of another aircraft.” said Svensson. “Based on our experience, [for such scenarios] you need dynamic models for a lot of parameters of both your own system and perceived threats. We have no information of what that might be. Regarding Gripen, Norway has not asked for and we have not provided full dynamic data as regards to radar cross section, cross section in other wavelengths, weapon systems data, aerodynamic models, EW models countermeasures models etc. For thorough evaluation you need this data, we haven’t provided that data regarding Gripen.”

The Norwegian committee determined that the F-35 will be cheaper to buy and maintain over the lifetime of the program. This finding has also aggravated Saab. “If their claimed estimates are correct it would be cheaper for Norway to obtain JSF, even if Sweden would have developed and given 48 Gripen Next Generation (NG) as a gift to Norway. It should be unreasonable.”

Svensson has reservation to the Norwegian cost analysis as well. “The evaluation team made changes without consulting with us, what it means for Gripen”. “The number of aircraft to be acquired was increased from 48 to 58 and operational lifetime has been dramatically expanded from 25 to 35 years without further consultation.” Svensson noted.  For example, Fuel consumption was based on different numbers than the manufacturer provided. “They have set a fuel consumption much higher tan Gripen actually consumes.” according to Svensson Saab estimated value of fuel consumption provided to the committee is based on experience from 120,000 flight hours with Gripen. “Even though the Norwegian specification of requirements seeks lowered fuel consumption, the evaluation committee chooses to raise the values we have provided, adding further additional costs” he said.

He indicated that the Norwegians assumed approximately half of their fleet will be lost over the 35 years. “It seems they have used experience from their F-16 and applied it to the Gripen’s life cycle cost, regarding acquisition of replacement aircraft, spare parts, upgrading costs and currency exchange.”

It is Saab’s assessment that only 20 percent of the Norwegian evaluation committee’s cost estimates are based on the facts presented in the Swedish offer. Remaining estimates represents, according to our view, assumptions and self-made estimates, not based on information that has been confirmed by us.

Nevertheless, after two major blows from Oslo and Hague, Saab is not giving up. “There are ongoing campaigns in Denmark, India, Brazil, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia; we must focus on those and continue developing the Gripen aircraft.” concludes Svensson.