This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
LINKOPING, Sweden -- After years of delay, Gripen International believes Brazil is nearly ready to make a decision in its fighter competition, in which the company's single-engine fighter is in competition against the Boeing F/A-18E/F and Dassault Rafale.
"We get the feeling it is the endgame," notes Eddy de La Motte, vice president for marketing for Gripen International, the joint venture of Saab and BAE Systems that markets the Swedish fighter to export customers.
Saab could deliver the first Gripen E/F (also called the NG) fighter four years after contract award, but it is still unclear if that is the schedule Brasilia will insist on or whether it will join the combined Swiss/Swedish Gripen E/F development schedule, which would see the first fighter handed over in 2018.
The first Gripen E/F prototype is due to fly late next year if the Swiss and Swedish governments can agree on the development path forward. The effort would likely require some Saab funding too.
Meanwhile, the Selex Galileo Raven ES-05 active, electronically scanned array radar is to fly on the Gripen NG demonstrator soon, during which time the cockpit displays and sensor will be put through their paces.
The Swedish government has an offer on the table to potential export buyers to accelerate its purchase if another country wants the Gripen E/F early, but does not want to be the lead buyer. That offer remains on the table, de La Motte says.
A win in Brazil could open the door to other fighter deals in South America, adds Frederik Gustafson, regional director for Gripen exports in the Americas. "There is a huge need for new fighters in the region and the economies are growing," he tells reporters on the sidelines of Aerospace Forum Sweden 2012. There are more than a handful of countries that are looking to buy in the next five years, he adds.
But that is not the only region where the manufacturer is working to meet its target of selling 300 fighters over the next decade. In Thailand, where it has already sold 12 Gripens (six are delivered and six will follow next year), it hopes for additional deals. Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and, "in a couple of years," Vietnam may be opportunities, de La Motte says.
Efforts also continue to extend the fighter lease deal with the Czech Republic and secure orders in places such as Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovakia. Gripen also still hopes to convince Denmark and the Netherlands to defect from the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter program to which they are committed.