STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- It's been a promising week for Saab of Sweden – the Swedish government decided to buy its Gripen fighters and the Swiss moved closer to doing so.
The decision to purchase 60 JAS 39E aircraft was made announced by Swedish Minster of Defense Karin Enstrom after the deal received strong approval in the Riksdag, Sweden's parliament.
The Gripen is a lightweight, single-engine multirole fighter in a delta wing and canard configuration and features fly-by-wire technology. It has a maximum speed of 1,372 miles per hour at altitude, a combat radius of 432 miles and a service ceiling of 50,000 feet. The early version of the aircraft entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1996.
Five countries in addition to Sweden operate the jet, some of them on a lease basis.
The 60 aircraft eyed for procurement from Saab by Sweden would meet the nation's defense needs until 2042, Saab said. Deliveries would begin in 2018 once price and final procurement details were agreed upon.
"This decision once again shows the broad support both from politicians and authorities for Gripen being the backbone of Swedish air defense for many years to come," Saab said. "It is also proof that Saab has developed a high-technology multirole fighter which answers up to defined needs on the market.
"We have held continuous and fruitful discussions with relevant authorities. These talks will now continue until there is a formal order in place."
Although procurement has been approved, there is an approval condition by the government that could still scupper the deal: procurement of the aircraft is off if Switzerland changes its mind about its agreement to buy the plane, and if there are no orders from other countries since additional orders would lower production and acquisition costs.
As it stands, The Swiss government is looking to purchase 22 Gripen aircraft for a total cost of about $3.3 billion. Switzerland's Federal Council has looked favorably on the deal and has now asked parliament to give its seal of approval.
Funding for acquisition of the aircraft would come through establishment of a special fund, which would be based on federal law and which may be subject to "an optional referendum," Swiss Ministry of Defense, Civil Defense and Sports said.
The procurement must be funded by allocations – spread over 10 years -- under the ceiling on military spending, the ministry said.
"The Gripen procurement fund will be provided exclusively through the armed forces expenditures, and no additional investment will be required" from the government, it said.
Foreign suppliers offsets to Swiss industry would also be required, as well as Swedish industry promoting Swiss industry.
The Gripen, if procured, would replace Switzerland's fleet of obsolete F-5 Tigers.