“Even if Sweden gave away 48 planes, Norway claims that the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) would be cheaper,” said Saab CEO Åke Svensson at a press conference on Wednesday regarding Saab’s views on the failed procurement, according to the TT news agency.
The statements come less than three weeks after Norway ended months of speculation by choosing the US-made Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter over the Gripen to replace the country’s fleet of aging F-16 aircraft.
The decision “came as a surprise” to Saab, and was made even more difficult to accept by the way in which Norway delivered the news, offering a detailed account of why the Gripen was an inferior aircraft.
“The JSF is considered to be better than the Gripen in every major requirement for a combat aircraft – spying and surveillance, as well as combat against targets in the air, on land, and at sea,” said Norway’s defence minister Anne-Grethe Ström-Erichsen to the Norwegian news agency NTB at the time of the announcement.
Especially galling for Saab was Norway’s assertion that the Gripen was more expensive than the F-35, as analysts had repeatedly stressed the Gripen’s relatively cheaper operating costs as one of the plane’s primary competitive strengths.
In publicizing its scathing review of Norway’s analysis, Saab claimed that the country’s analysis of the Gripen’s costs and capabilities was based on information which the Norwegians essentially made up, and that several assumptions were grossly misguided.
“The arguments put forward seemed to have very little, or no, establishment in the preceding procurement process. We did not recognize ourselves in the assessment of Gripen’s operational capacity or the description of its costs. It sounded like the description of another aircraft,” said Saab in a statement.
“The claim that Gripen does not fulfill Norway’s operational demands and that Gripen would prove essentially more expensive must, according to our view, rest on an incomplete, or even faulty, analysis.”
Specifically, Saab said Norway’s claims that the Gripen didn’t meet the demands of the Norwegian air force are based on “incomplete or non-existent” information.
Furthermore, claims Saab, Norway injected a number of its own assumptions into the cost estimates which greatly inflated the costs.
“It is Saab’s assessment that only 20 percent of the Norwegian evaluation committees cost estimates are based on the facts presented in the Swedish offer,” the company said.
According to Saab, for example, Norway based its estimates about the Gripen’s costs using figures derived from Norway’s experience with the American made F-16 which is “a very different and in important aspects non-comparable aircraft”.
Furthermore, Norway assumed that nearly half of the fleet of 48 Gripen aircraft included called for in the procurement would crash within 35 years.
“This is completely unfounded if applied to Gripen’s statistics. This also adds further billions to the calculation,” said Saab.
Saab’s public airing of the review is an attempt by the company to answer any doubts that may have arisen among other potential Gripen customers due to Norway's claims.
“To Saab it is important to call attention to the fact that that claims of Gripen’s insufficient performance and high costs are not founded on recognized facts and experiences,” said the company.
In concluding, Saab said it respects Norway’s decision, understanding “that many considerations, political as well as other, govern this type of procurement processes”, and that it plans to continue to pursue other opportunities elsewhere.