Anger over Norway’s fighter plane rejection

Anger over Norway's fighter plane rejection
A former Saab executive lashed out at the Norwegian government on Friday over its handling of a decision to reject the Gripen in favour of the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“We are really surprised about how this was handled, what happened yesterday, and about the justification,” said Jan Nygren, who served as Saab’s deputy CEO until two years ago, to the TT news agency.

Since leaving his post, Nygren has served as a consultant for Saab on the Norway deal and as a result has plenty of insight into what was said and done in the lead up to Thursday’s rejection of the Gripen.

“It went very fast and we didn’t get any advance warning, maybe an hour and a half, and with that I’m being generous,” he said.

“And besides, we are just a tad surprised to say the least that they so unabashedly chose to criticize the Gripen, despite the fact that all of us involved know that the Gripen is a better fit for the functional demands laid out in the documentation included in the proposal request.

“I can’t criticize Norway for deciding to buy an American airplane. It’s obvious if there are two competitors that only one can win. But we are confused by the justification. Why is it necessary to sit in a press conference and state that the Gripen doesn’t meet a number of operational demands?” asked Nygren.

As he continued to vent his frustration, Nygren wondered further why Norway would subject the Gripen to such harsh public criticism.

In announcing the decision on Thursday, Norway’s defence minister Anne-Grethe Ström-Erichsen presented a detailed technical review in which she detailed how the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) outclassed the Gripen in almost every area.

“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,” she told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

The public dismantling of the Gripen’s capabilities by the Norwegian defence minister was also a sore point for Nygren.

“We’re wondering why a neighbouring country like Norway took the liberty of choosing this way to describe an airplane which is actually in operation in our air force,” he said.

“It will probably mean that Saab will request to look at the documentation. And I’m assuming that the government and the Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) are just as interested. Because this isn’t just some minor attack, if I can use that expression.”

Jan Nygren said he had never believed that Norway was simply playing to the gallery when it requested a Swedish tender.

“No, I have not wished to harbour any such suspicions. We have endeavoured to view our Norwegian friends as a group that was serious and had thought this through.

“Of course, having seen all this, I will now have another think. What happened yesterday may cause me to have some doubts.”