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    A Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet

    High Hopes: Saab Expands to Brazil, Hopes to Woo Finland

    © AFP 2019 / FABRICE COFFRINI
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    Last week, Finland took an important step in its efforts to acquire new fighter jets, as the country sent out requests to Sweden, the US, Britain and France on what the countries had to offer. In the case of Sweden their hot jet, naturally, is Saab's Gripen.

    So far, Finland's final decision remains unclear, but interest among defense companies is huge, because the whole affair is judged to be worth up to 11 billion dollars. The final cost will largely depend on how exactly the deal is designed and how many new planes Finland procures to replace its aging fleet of 62 F-18 Hornets.

    Finland's interest in renewing its air force has sparked optimism at Saab, as CEO Håkan Buskhe has raised the forecast for the number of Gripen jets the company expects to sell.

    Previously, Saab expected to sell 450 Gripen aircrafts over the next 20 years. Now, Buskhe says that this figure only includes fighter jets of the E/F versions, which Saab plans to ship to Sweden and Brazil starting from 2019, not regarding the current C/D version the company also expects to sell in large quantities, Svenska Dagbladet reported.

    No matter which way it goes with the Finnish deal, Buskhe hopes to increase Saab's presence in Finland. The reason is that the notorious Nokia crisis resulted in a variety of Finnish software engineers now working in fields that are of interest to Saab. According to Buskhe, some of the solutions actually can be implemented for cyber warfare. Besides, the Finnish game industry is developing technology that may come of use for Saab in developing military training equipment using computer simulators.

    "Regardless of what happens with the Gripen in Finland, we hope to advance our positions there. They have a lot of technical expertise that is interesting for us," Buskhe said.

    Recently, Saab has also stepped up cooperation with Latin America in a bid to broaden the company's presence, picking a Brazilian company for production of equipment for Gripen fighters for the Brazilian Air Force. The contract with Brazil stipulates 36 fighters and all of them will be built locally.

    ​Latin America is a region that is largely defined by restricted budgets and outdated air fleets (averaging over 30 years), and Saab is looking forward to also entice Colombia with a little help from Brazil.

    The Gripen falls in the middle of the spectrum of fighter types, ranging from top-end Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sukhoi Su-35 to bottom-end surplus aircraft, such as the outdated Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, which are the most affordable type.

    At present, Saab has orders for 96 Gripen aircraft; 60 to Sweden and 36 to Brazil. Other probable buyers include Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia and Bulgaria, whereas a particularly lucrative deal with India for 200 jets seems to have skidded. Another setback for Saab was a resolute refusal on a Gripen deal from its neighboring country Norway.

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    fighter jet, Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Saab, Nokia, Scandinavia, Sweden, Latin America, Finland, Brazil
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