Norway Opts for F-35 Lightning II over Gripen NG as Future Fighter


Despite being defeated against the F-35 in Norway, by merely contesting its claimed dominance Saab gained significant recognition in its Gripen NG, being a viable alternative to the future US 5th Generation fighter.

After reconsidering its future fighter procurement, and evaluating a possible procurement of a future version of the JAS-39 Saab Gripen NG, Norway decided that the only candidate which could meet all the future operational requirements set by the Royal Norwegian Air Force ‘Future Combat Aircraft Capability’ requirement will be the 5th generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

“The Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] is considered to be the better of the two candidates regarding intelligence and surveillance, counter-air, air interdict and anti-surface warfare,” defense minister Anne-Grete Strýým-Erichsen said. Norway plans to buy 48 aircraft, scheduled for initial fielding by 2014.

Despite the Lightning’s notional high cost, the Norwegians realized that the JSF is offered at a lower price than the Swedish Gripen NG. Both aircraft are offered with industrial cooperation benefits to the local industry. Sofar Norway was the only JSF partner nation to complete a formal competition to assess the JSF against current or future alternatives. One other JSF partner nation, Denmark, is also conducting a competition for its next generation fighter and will announce its decision in 2009. The Dutch parliament also required the MoD to consider alternatives, despite the air forces’ decision toward the US fighter and in Australia, debate is still ongoing, although government and Defence officials are mostly in favor of the JSF.

Although the Norwegian decision is a setback to Saab, which spent considerable effort challenging the JSF in Norway, and enjoyed friendly support from industry and government, the competition highlighted Gripen NG as a viable competitor to 5th generation fighters. Saab was hoping that challenging JSF in Norway would lead to further successes in other markets, including Denmark, Netherlands. Despite the failure to defeat the future joint strike fighter, Gripen NG gained a clear edge over its current 4th generation competitors, strengthening its position in important markets such as Brazil and India, where they compete against 4th generation fighters such as F/A-18E/FRafale, and Typhoon.