BRUSSELS, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Sweden to fund new Gripen
Following Lockheed Martin's victory in the race for the new Norwegian air force fighter jet contract over Saab's Gripen NG, Sweden has announced it will fund the development of a fifth-generation Gripen jet, according to a statement from the Swedish Ministry of Defense.
The Norwegian deal was made several weeks ago and was announced ahead of schedule. The timing and decision are said to have surprised Saab and the Swedish government. Norway decided to spend $2.5 billion on 48 U.S.-built Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Striker Fighters in a competition that previously saw the Eurofighter Typhoon drop out.
As well as bankrolling development of the new fifth-generation Gripen, Sweden intends to buy 10 of the new models when they are ready to enter service. Sweden is also in the process of reducing and upgrading its current Gripen fleet.
The Gripen NG is still entered in competitions for combat fighter contracts with the air forces of Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, India, the Netherlands, Romania and Switzerland, according to Defense News. The three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are considering pooling their money to buy the Gripen NG in bulk for a common air-defense plan.
Dassault clears hurdle toward buying Thales share
Dassault Aviation in France recently announced its bid to buy up Alcatel-Lucent's 20.8-percent share in Thales for just under $2 billion. Now Dassault has cleared an important hurdle on its path toward getting clearance to buy the stake.
The only other shareholder in Thales is the French government, which sold Alcatel-Lucent its share almost two years ago. That deal was made with a set of stringent demands on any other company interested in taking over the minority share.
Dassault has agreed not to veto strategic operations of Thales, and it will not outnumber the five French government members on the Thales board, nor will Dassault seek to put one of its own executives in charge of, or interfere with, Thales acquisitions or sales.
In October, Alcatel-Lucent received a bid from the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. for its 20.8-percent stake in Thales for an estimated $2.27 billion. However, today Dassault's offer, which incorporates a 25-percent premium on the current value of the shares, is the only one on the table for any portion of the Thales stock.
Dassault Aviation's window for exclusive negotiation for the stake has been available for purchase since October. It closes on Dec. 15.
Britain to urgently upgrade Vikings in Afghanistan
Britain's all-terrain vehicle in operation in Afghanistan is to be urgently upgraded with additional armor. The Ministry of Defense is thought to be on the verge of launching an Urgent Operational Requirement deal, Defense News reported last week.
The Viking fleet, built by BAE Systems, needs extra under-belly armor plates to protect the vehicles from mines and roadside bombs. Crew seating is to be improved, too. BAE facilities will carry out the upgrading work.
Singapore Technologies Kinetics' Bronco looks likely to win a competition for a contract to build Britain's larger Viking with more protection over BAE's Swedish Hagglunds daughter company.
Some of the Vikings are already being upgraded in Britain and should be ready in a year or so. The remaining 100 or so will have to be upgraded in theater in Afghanistan.
The same Viking already has been upgraded several times through Urgent Operational Requirement deals. The Ministry of Defense has ordered 22 extra units. The British army is believed to now have about 145 of them.
Both BAE and the British Ministry of Defense have confirmed to Defense News that the UOR deal is on the verge of completion.