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Hungary receives Gripen jets

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19:42 CEST+02:00
Hungary took delivery of their first five JAS 39 Gripen fighter planes on Thursday. They are thus the proud owners of the world's most modern fighters. The planes were formally handed over by defence minister, Leni Björklund, on behalf of the supplier - the Swedish state.

Hungary have leased a total of 14 planes, which were previously owned by the Swedish Air Force, but have been comprehensively up-graded. Hungary is the third country to fly the Gripen fighters, after Sweden and the Czech Republic. Hungary will purchase the planes at a later date.

Saab and the Swedish government, in the form of the Defence Matériel Aministration (FMV), are in discussions with a number of other potential buyers.

During the week, Saab provided information to Norway. Similar information has already been sent to Denmark. This is seen as a first concrete step towards a possible future agreement.

Saab has viewed events in Norway with interest. Norway, which has a socialist government, has started to question a continuation of the American Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project. Amongst the questions raised has been the issue of peripheral deals offered by the USA.

Hungary will recoup 110% of the cost of the Gripen in similar deals.

Hungary are highly satisfied so far. Sandor Szabo from the finance department told TT that they have already signed 72% of the deals in the form of investments in the country from big business such as Electrolux and Astra Zeneca.

Szabo only has Sweden's word that they will fulfil their obligations.

The multi billion kronor deal is big news in Hungary. At the handing over ceremony at Kecskémets

air base, there was boundless enthusiasm over the arrival of replacements for the ageing Mig-29 fleet.

Szabo reported that Hungary has received delegations from several countries, including Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, who have asked how Sweden have conducted themselves over the project. Sweden received glowing references.

The Gripen models which Saab are offering Norway and Denmark, according to Saab, meet the highest criteria at a much lower price than USA are asking for the JSF. Saab are offering 48 planes each to Norway and Denmark, whose F-16s have started to age.

TT has spoken to a number of pilots who have test flown both the Gripen and F-16 and the pilots say the Gripen acquitted itself well.

Gripen will be delivered to the Swedish Air Force next year. Afterwards, Saab will build 28 planes for South Africa. But they need more customers.

The Gripen deal in Hungary has several winners: the Swedish Air Force has off-loaded 14 planes from their surplus; Saab has had the opportunity to completely rebuild the plane to the highest modern specifications; and Hungary gets a top of the range fighter, plus significant investment.

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