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SAAB pulls out its Gripen E fighter from Swiss flight trials

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The Gripen-E fighter during its maiden successful test flight in June 2017. Photo: SAAB

STOCKHOLM (BNS): Swedish defence major SAAB, one of the contenders in Switzerland’s “Air2030” programme to acquire new-generation fighter platforms for the Swiss Air Force, has withdrawn its Gripen E multi-role fighter from participating in ground and flight trials scheduled to be held at Payerne, Switzerland from 24-28 June, 2019.

SAAB’s decision comes after the Swiss defence procurement agency Armasuisse stipulated that the flight tests would involve and evaluate “only those aircraft which are operationally ready in 2019”.

“The flight tests are part of the fighter evaluation process that foresees aircraft deliveries (to Switzerland) in 2025. Gripen E will enter into operational service years before Switzerland has scheduled deliveries and will meet all its defined capabilities.

“However, the Gripen E development plan does not match the Swiss plan to perform flight tests with aircraft that are operationally ready in 2019. Therefore, SAAB has decided not to attend the Swiss flight tests in Payerne 24-28 June," the Swedish firm said in a statement.

Gripen E is currently being developed, tested and produced for Sweden and Brazil. It is the most modern and technologically advanced fighter aircraft being developed. The programme is running at a fast and successful speed, with customer deliveries starting later this year, SAAB said further.

“Upon an invitation from Armasuisse, SAAB submitted a proposal for Gripen E on 25 January 2019. Since the submission of the proposal in January, the Armasuisse’ expectations on the flight tests have evolved to expect participation of operationally ready aircraft. As Gripen E is yet to become operational, SAAB has presented solutions to perform the Swiss flight tests in 2019.

"An offer to complement the Gripen E test aircraft with an operational Gripen C aircraft for the flight tests in June 2019 has not been accepted by Armasuisse,” the statement said.

Switzerland plans to retire its aging fleet of F-5 and F/A-18 Hornets in the 2020s and replace them with new fighter platforms with expected deliveries by 2025. Other contenders for the “Air2030” programme include Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35A.

While withdrawing from the ensuing flight trials programme, SAAB, however, remained committed to offer the Gripen E fighters to the Swiss Air Force.

“We believe that Gripen E is the best choice for Switzerland and the offer, as presented in January 2019, still stands. SAAB is committed to deliver at least 40 Gripen E fighter aircraft on time, meeting requirements and within planned budget, including a comprehensive support concept with local contribution, guaranteeing the most affordable operating costs and the highest level of autonomy,” the company said in the statement released on June 13.

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