Saab pulls Gripen E fighter jet out of Swiss Air Force flight tests

Talal Husseini 14 June 2019 (Last Updated June 14th, 2019 16:08)

Swedish aerospace and defence manufacturer Saab has withdrawn its fifth-generation Gripen E fighter jet from flight tests with the Swiss Air Force, stating that the aircraft’s development plan does not match up with Swiss defence procurement agency Armasuisse’s plan to have operationally-ready jets this year.

Saab pulls Gripen E fighter jet out of Swiss Air Force flight tests
Saab has pulled its Gripen E fighter jet from Swiss Air Force flight tests. Credit: Hornet Driver.

Swedish aerospace and defence manufacturer Saab has withdrawn its fifth-generation Gripen E fighter jet from flight tests with the Swiss Air Force, stating that the aircraft’s development plan does not match up with Swiss defence procurement agency Armasuisse’s plan to have operationally-ready jets this year.

Armasuisse invited Saab to submit a proposal for Gripen E to be chosen as the Swiss Air Force’s next fighter jet on 25 January 2019. However, the Gripen E is not yet operational.

Despite this, Saab presented solutions to Armasuisse to perform operational flight tests this year and offered to allow Armasuisse to perform flight tests on the Gripen C in June 2019 before the Gripen E could be tested, but this request was denied.

Armasuisse responded by saying that delaying the flight tests for the Gripen E “would prejudice the equal treatment of all candidates”.

Armasuisse wrote in a press release: “Based on recent information and analyses on both the maturity and the integration of the subsystems, experts from Armasuisse and the Swiss Air Force concluded that several of the planned missions could not be carried out meaningfully.

“Hence Armasuisse recommended to Saab to withdraw from the evaluation.

“Saab obviously arrived of its own accord at the conclusion not to participate in the flight and ground tests.”

Saab said it was committed to delivering 40 aircraft on time, meeting all the Swiss Air Force requirements and within the proposed budget but in the end, Armasuisse recommended that Saab withdraws from the tests.

Saab wrote in a press release: “It can be assumed that Armasuisse had the relevant knowledge when they invited Saab to participate in the tender process in 2018, of both the Gripen E development programme and the conditions under which Gripen E would be able to compete.”

The remaining four candidates in Armasuisse’s competition are Airbus’s Eurofighter, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, and Lockheed Martin’s F-35A.

Armasuisse will create separate technical reports on each candidate’s aircraft in late 2020, which will form the basis of comparison. After a second round of proposals, the Federal Council will evaluate the overall utility of each fighter jet including all costs over a 30-year operational lifespan and decide on the best candidate.