The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) ordered 14 hulls of its prized Saab Gripen fighter jet, which have been left empty and unused. While the price of the deal remains undisclosed, it is speculated to have set back the state hundreds of millions of kronor, the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper reported.
While the official price tag for the 60 Gripen Es ordered by the Swedish state was SEK 37 billion (almost $4 billion), Saab was also commissioned to build the hulls for an additional 14 Gripens (10 single-seat Gripen C and four two-seat Gripen D).
This batch was largely ordered to maintain the competence to manufacture fighter aircraft, as the production of Gripens for Sweden's Air Force and other export customers, such as Thailand, South Africa and the Czech Republic, almost ceased, and a substantial break was looming. The extra hulls were therefore ordered to keep the assembly line running before the production of Gripen Es, dubbed the "Sukhoi Killer", could begin.
"Gripen is an important safety interest for Sweden, and it was important to keep production going and hone the skills", FMV press officer Henrik Hedberg told Svenska Dagbladet.
The decision to start production of the Gripen E was taken by the former centre-right government. The the extra 14 Gripen C/D hulls were intended with several potential export transactions in mind. The clou of Saab's management's marketing campaign has been the idea that they can deliver brand new Gripen C/Ds in 18-24 months, which is significantly faster than its competitors can manage.
However, as of today, the hulls remain empty and lack the equipment needed for a functioning fighter. The FMV didn't specify how much taxpayer money the Swedish state spent on the hulls. A rough estimation indicated that the transaction involved at least several hundred million kronor.
In its statement, the FMV management stressed that the cost of the 14 hulls is included in the total cost of the entire Gripen E project.
"More detailed than that, we cannot be as the agreement for Gripen E is classified as confidential", the FMV told Svenska Dagbladet.
FMV declined to disclose its plans on what to do with the empty hulls. Since they cannot be used for Saab's brand new Gripen E, they are likely to end up unused, unless a new deal is reached.
One possibility is to use the hulls as a replacement for crashed Gripen jets. Previously, parliament decided that the Swedish Air Force should have 100 Gripen C/Ds. Today, there are 95. No such decision has been made so far.
With 60 Grupen Es ordered, Sweden remains their largest (and only) user. The rest of the Gripen users, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary or Thailand, fly the previous model C/D model.